Gigantic, pillowy snowflakes cartwheeled from Sunday afternoon’s sky, blanketing the landscape with a quiet that reflected my mood. Hours earlier, our Thanksgiving house guests had departed, I’d dropped our children at O’Hare for their return flights to school, and my husband had scooted off for a business trip. The house echoed with emptiness.
Though I am a quiet seeker by nature, the contrast of our warm, bustling holiday week against the grey solitude proved too stark for me. I built a fire in the family room and dragged my beloved hound’s bed in front of the hearth, and we sat together listening to the crackle. Watching him drift off, drunk from the fire’s warmth, brought me peace.
I puttered into our kitchen craving something warm and filling. The crispy leaves that fall from halved sprouts when roasted are always my favorite part, so I maximized the number of crisp-inducing edges by shaving the sprouts before roasting. (Yes, I’ve cored and separated sprouts into individual leaves on occasion and you can do that as well, but it’s a time consuming endeavor!). But I knew that wouldn’t be enough. Pairing the sprouts with this creamy, garlicky, spicy, lemony, ricotta took the sprouts from simple veggie to satiating dish. I slathered the ricotta onto a thick slice of toast then piled the sprouts on top, enjoying it tartine style.
Crispy Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Calabrian Chili Ricotta and Toasted Walnuts
Pair this hearty veggie dish with roast chicken or slather thick pieces of toast with the ricotta and top with sprouts for vegetarian tartines.
A quick word about ricotta…not all are created equally. Ricotta gets a bad rap for having an unpleasant, grainy, and watery texture which it definitely can have. Seek out a traditional whole milk ricotta – my favorite is Narraganset Creamery’s Renaissance Ricotta, found locally at Heinen’s. Smooth, fluffy, and creamy – it’s exactly what you want. Belgioioso Ricotta con Latte Whole Milk Ricotta and Galbani brand whole milk ricotta are also excellent choices. Please avoid both Trader Joe’s and Organic Valley brands.
Calabrian chilis are spicy, smoky, bright and vinegary. They can be found online, in specialty and Italian markets, and at Williams-Sonoma. Be sure to choose peppers packed in oil as the oil is an integral part of the dish. For this recipe I used Isola brand.
serves 4 to 6
- 1/2 cup creamy whole milk ricotta (please read above note on ricotta choice)
- 8 Calabrian chili peppers from a jar packed in oil, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1 small lemon, zested and halved
- 1 small clove garlic
- 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup walnut halves, lightly toasted*
for the Calabrian chili ricotta:
Place ricotta, 2 tablespoons of minced chilis, 1 tablespoon oil from chili jar, lemon zest, and juice from half the lemon into a small bowl. Grate garlic with a microplane or very finely mince and add to bowl along with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Whisk until fluffy, creamy and completely smooth. Test for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Allow to sit at room temperature if serving right away or make ahead and refrigerate, whisking again and bringing to room temp before serving.
for the sprouts:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Using a food processor fitted with a slicing disc or a mandolin (or a very sharp knife and loads of patience), thinly slice Brussels sprouts then place in a large bowl. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil, season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, tossing gently with your hands to coat.
Spread shaved sprouts evenly between two sheet pans, creating a thin, even layer on each. Do not crowd onto one pan – you don’t want the sprouts to steam. Place in oven and roast for 7 minutes, then rotate pans and switch from top to bottom (do not stir). Roast for another 6-7 minutes, until sprouts around edges of pan are dark golden and crispy and those in center are tender and just beginning to brown. Watch carefully – dark golden can turn to burned in a flash!
plating and serving:
Scoop ricotta onto a serving platter in a circle shape (leaving center open), then create swoops with the back of a spoon. Fluff the sprouts while on the sheet pan, then pile into center of platter, being sure to include every last crispy bit. Crush walnuts gently with your fingers, scattering them all over the dish. Sprinkle with remaining minced chilis and drizzle with olive oil. Just before serving, squeeze juice from second lemon half over top. Serve while sprouts are still warm, spooning some ricotta onto each plate and topping with the sprouts.
*toast walnuts on a sheet pan in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring once half way through. Nuts are done when fragrant and a shade darker. Check frequently as they can burn in a moment.