About a dozen years ago a friend of mine threw herself a birthday party at a newly opened yoga studio, and she asked me to help prepare some food for the post-practice party. We had Champagne (of course) and a huge platter of raw and lightly-steamed vegetables with a couple of dipping sauces.

“Who knew Brussels sprouts would be the most popular vegetable on the platter?” my friend marveled the next day.

To be sure, the small, green gems were the first to disappear – before the red pepper strips, baby carrots, or haricots verts. I had included them on a whim, as I recall. The party was in December, and when I was shopping at the market, there was a display with lovely stalks of fresh green sprouts. I couldn’t resist them – mostly on looks but also because I had become fond of Brussels sprouts in my adult cooking years.

In the dozen years since, Brussels sprouts have become utterly ubiquitous. You’ll even find them on bar menus, served in little iron skillets with heaps of bacon and loads of cheese. In the week or two leading up to Thanksgiving, I’ll bet almost every food site, blog, column, or TV show includes a Brussels sprouts recipe.

So why add yet another entry, here? Simple: to encourage you to keep it simple.

Brussels sprouts (cultivated in, yes, Belgium several centuries ago, which is why the “B” should always be capitalized) need very little enhancement but require good preparation. Fresh, light green sprouts can easily be shredded or shaved (in a food processor, if you like), dressed with a lemon-shallot vinaigrette (and some salt), and served as salad. (See? You don’t even need a recipe!)

Cooking the sprouts is where you have to be both attentive and light handed. If you overcook them, they’ll be mushy and taste of sulfur. That’s why the best and most popular recipes typically call for cutting the sprouts into quarters, dressing with olive oil, and roasting in a hot, but not too hot oven until they are crispy on the outside edges of the leaves and just cooked inside. Pan frying is also an option if you follow the same rule and do not overcook.

I love to cook: If you’re already a committed Brussels sprouts fan and just looking for something new (without maple or bacon), try them with pecans and avocados (recipe from Jean-Georges Vongerichten). Or try crispy gnocchi and Brussels sprouts using either this free-access recipe from Eating Well or the subscriber-only recipe at New York Times Cooking.

Weeknight reality: Try this hearty salad with quinoa, lemon, walnuts, chile and Brussels sprouts. Make enough to take for lunch another day. Or used the old standby: Ina Garten’s roasted Brussels sprouts.

I need a miracle: OK, first you’ll have to decide whether you want to save prep time or cooking time. If you’re saving cooking time, then buy the freshest sprouts you can find, trim the ends, remove outer leaves, and shred. You can toss the raw, shredded sprouts in dressing and serve; or, if you want to take the raw edge off, try this easy – and super quick – warm salad. If you want to save prep time by buying a bag of sliced or shredded sprouts, then you’ll have to cook them. The pre-packaged stuff tastes terrible raw but can be salvaged by cooking and seasoning. Here’s one way: Heat some olive oil in a skillet; use tongs as you toss in the bag-o-sprouts, moving them around to coat in oil; add some lemon juice, if you have it, or a little water (a tablespoon or two) if not, and cover to steam for a couple of minutes; remove the cover, sprinkle in red pepper flakes (this is the best way to use the pizza packets, if you store them in a drawer like we do) and salt; keep cooking, and tossing, until all the liquid is gone and the vegetables are brown and crispy in places. Easy-peasy.


red and green lentils

Here’s a true story: my mother refused to eat legumes of any kind. She grew up on a farm during the Depression, daughter of a preacher in rural west Tennessee. They ate beans and drank milk and wouldn’t have dared eat a laying hen or allow any of the chicks to hatch.

When I came home from college, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest in hand, and told my mother I was making lentils for dinner, she turned up her nose and said she’d be having something else. I never did persuade her otherwise. That my mother loved eggs (and chicken) but despised milk and every kind of legume is just funny to me, still.

My children, conveniently, love lentils. Since they cook quickly compared to other types of legumes, are great for a weeknight dinner. Even better, they are very versatile.There isn’t a season or type of weather that isn’t right for lentils.

Chilly outside? Lentil soup or stew to the rescue.

Sunny and in the mid-60s? A composed salad makes for a lovely evening meal.

Racing home to make dinner in less than 30 minutes? Use canned lentil soup as a base, adding fresh spinach and topping with crème fraîche (or, if it’s what you’ve got on hand, sour cream).

Confused about different types of lentils? Link at the end of the recipes should help.

Food Ideas

Love to Cook: Try French Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts (David Lebovitz via The Splendid Table) or perhaps Lentil, Cabbage & Bacon Salad (Gourmandistan, adapted from Jacques Pépin)

Weeknight Reality: Quick Red Lentils & Spinach in Tikka Masala Sauce (NOTE: ignore the cooking time printed on the recipe; it reads 1 hr. 20 min., but actual cooking time is under 30 minutes, using prepared Tikka Masala sauce, whether it’s Saffron Road brand or something else) or perhaps Red Lentil Soup with Spicy Crème fraîche (Eating from the Ground Up)

Need a Miracle: Canned lentil soup with added fresh spinach and crème fraîche

Additional Info: Comprehensive Guide to Lentils – Oh My Veggies

Parting Thought

The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, ‘If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.’ Said Diogenes, ‘ Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.’

Anthony de Mello, via goodreads



Tubby Creek July 2014

Whether you prepare your tomatoes and vegetables by whipping them in a blender (or food processor) or painstakingly dicing by hand, gazpacho makes the most of what’s in season mid-summer. There are myriad recipes available online; below are just three that seemed good today. Pair with a hunk of cold iceberg lettuce, topped with blue cheese, bacon and diced tomato, and summer dinner is served.

Love to Cook: This classic gazpacho is easy and quick, aside from the chilling time (which, frankly, I always cut short). Try it with this wedge salad.

Weeknight Reality: Ina Garten’s version takes 20 minutes to make. Really. Add Tabasco if you want it spicy. Here’s an easy wedge salad, easier if you substitute cooked bacon.

Need a Miracle: This quick recipe takes 10 minutes (and passata is crushed, strained tomatoes, which are available in most groceries). See above for salad recipe, or just make a plain salad.



Spring Rolls | Vegetable Fried Rice

Did your CSA bag have at least two heads of fresh spring lettuce and a bunch of fresh mint? Well, mine did. And the tender, earthy leaves are just as tasty as ever. If you haven’t ever had fresh lettuce from a farmers market, this week would be a good time to find some and give it a try. Fresh lettuce tastes nothing like what you get in the store, and since it doesn’t have to travel cross-country in an 18-wheeler, it will last longer than a day or two.

Spring rolls bring out the best in fresh, spring lettuce, herbs and carrots. Pair them with some spring vegetable fried rice for the perfect seasonal comfort food dinner.

Love to Cook: Vegetable Summer Rolls (about an hour) and Vegetable Fried Rice (15 minutes, if you have cooked rice on hand)

Weeknight Reality: Quick Vietnamese Spring Rolls (about 20 minutes) and Quick Vegetable Fried Rice (about 20 minutes, if you have rice)

Need a Miracle: Make the spring rolls using this recipe; instead of fried rice make Faux Pho Ga (Vietnamese chicken noodle soup) with rotisserie chicken and packaged broth


Spring is coming. Really. So put some heft in your dinner and clear out the winter blues.


Food Ideas

  • Love to Cook: Composed Winter Salad with Whole Grain Bread
  • Weeknight Reality: Kale & Arugula Salad with Citrus Dressing and Raincoast Crisps
  • Need a Miracle: Prepared Broccoli Slaw over Greens (bagged, ready to eat) with Sesame Dressing

Recipe Links

Parting Thought

“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
Franklin D. Roosevelt