This month’s On the Table recipe is all about reinventing Brussels sprouts, swapping boiled and roasted bites for a crisp, raw sprout salad.

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I still remember how translucent they were, those Brussels sprout leaves. I’d sit there pulling them off the rest of the bud, one by one, until I was a member of the “clean plate club.” My mom, who grew up in the 1950s, was taught to boil Brussels sprouts, and so she, too, boiled them in her own 1980s kitchen. By the time they got to our drop-leaf table they were soft, a grayish green and usually the last thing left on my plate. Nothing loved, nothing loathed, just dinner.

Today, I set sprouts atop the very same drop-leaf table I ate from as a child and serve them to my kids. But our family has long since traded boiling for roasting the baby brassica. One year, for Thanksgiving, I even honored the kids’ request to deep fry our sprouts—“just like the Leland Lodge,” they asked. “Please, mommy?” Roasting, frying and braising Brussels sprouts have all had their turn in the recent renaissance of this mighty plant, but one overlooked way to let Brussels shine is to simply enjoy them raw.

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo by Dave Weidner

As a late-harvest staple, Brussels sprouts not only tolerate but also benefit from that first dusting of snow. “The cold nights make the carbohydrates turn to sugars, so they get kind of sweet,” says Reid Johnston who farms the beloved brassica for Second Spring Farm in Cedar. “That’s why they’re a typical Thanksgiving food.”

Before you turn your attention to winter cookery, try skipping the heat. This year, when your high holiday oven is packed to the gills and your stovetop is littered with all things
bubbling and sputtering, do yourself a favor and slice fall’s favorite vegetable into a salad instead. Fold shaved sprouts with sweet red pears and gorgonzola cheese, both of which compliment Brussels sprouts, and whisk up a creamy lemony-walnut dressing to top it off. On plates that are piled high with stuffing and gravy, this offers something bright, refreshing and not boiled. Definitely not boiled.

Photo by Dave Weidner

Brussels Sprouts, Pear & Gorgonzola Salad Recipe

Makes 10 small scoops for otherwise loaded dinner plates

  • 1⁄2 cup shelled walnuts, broken into pieces
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1⁄3 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • Zest and juice from half a lemon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup celery leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 red Anjou pear, quartered, cored and thinly sliced into tine-length pieces
  • 4 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, about 1 cup

Photo by Dave Weidner

1. Set a dry skillet over medium heat and add the walnuts, toasting them until they are dark in places and fragrant, about 3 minutes.

2. In the bottom of a serving bowl, combine the shallot, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, salt and a few grindings of fresh black pepper. Working in a slow steady stream, add the walnut oil and whisk until the dressing is emulsified and creamy.

3. Add the Brussels sprouts and celery leaves to the serving bowl and toss, massaging the slices with your hands until they are fully coated. Gently fold in the pear, cheese and toasted walnuts. Top with a few more turns of freshly cracked pepper and serve

Photo by Dave Weidner

Stacey Brugeman is a 20-year food and beverage journalist. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Saveure, Eater and on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Dave Weidner is an editorial photographer and videographer based in Northern Michigan. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook @dzwphoto.

Sarah Peschel is a stylist and photographer with an appreciation for all things related to local agriculture, food and drink.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner