Before it’s all salads, fresh herbs and succulent berries, I think we have time for one more brussels sprouts dish.
Brussels sprouts are my favorite vegetable, and they are trendy. Talk about a comeback — these little cruciferous spheres were once reviled as stinky and sulfuric, and now they can be found on the tasting menu of restaurants everywhere.
Charred, crispy, roasted, shaved, paired with soy, garlic, lemon and more, they are a chef’s dream. Their bittersweet flavor and hardy texture make them perfect for a wide array of cooking techniques, and they can take spice, acidity, sweetness or umami flavors gracefully.
They are best in the winter, when they are in season and full-flavored, and when hardy vegetables are comforting to the palate. But let’s just do one more before temperatures are steadily above 50 degrees.
I first spied this recipe last year in New York Times writer Melissa Clark’s cookbook “Dinner: Changing the Game” (Clarkson Potter 2017). When I get a new cookbook I flip through cover to cover and mark any recipes that catch my attention.
“Fried Halloumi with Spicy Brussels Sprouts” caught my eye, because Wisconsin has its own version of halloumi. Here it’s called bread cheese, but it is the same idea: a solid, toothsome cheese that is a pre-cooked and little bland out of the package, but warmed up it resists melting and becomes oozy, buttery and delicious. Multiple cultures have this type of cheese. The Wisconsin variety is most closely related to Scandinavian juustoleipa. In Finland, a cube of this cheese is dipped or dropped into coffee to warm it up.
I had the pleasure of meeting Clark while she visited Madison soon after the release of the book, and she actually emailed me later asking about Wisconsin’s bread cheese. It was a perfect stand-in for halloumi (although the name isn’t as musical).
Clark’s technique is preserved here, but I switched up the flavor profile. Both the sprouts and the cheese are adaptable, so if you prefer something different, go for it. The end result should be a balanced dish with spices, fat and acidity. The roasting brings out the sprouts sweetness, as does the tangy-sweet pomegranate molasses.
Anna Thomas Bates is a mother, writer and cheesemaker who lives in southern Wisconsin. Email her at email@example.com.
This dish was adapted from Melissa Clark’s “Dinner: Changing the Game.” Clark uses halloumi, a pre-grilled Greek cheese that doesn’t melt when warmed. Here in Wisconsin, we have bread cheese, which is easily found at most groceries.
Brussels Sprouts and Fried Bread Cheese with Za’atar
Recipe tested by Anna Thomas Bates
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut into quarters
2 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
Pinch of salt
1 ½ teaspoons za’atar seasoning
8 ounces bread cheese or halloumi, cut into cubes
1 to 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Pomegranate molasses for serving
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Toss cut brussels sprouts in a roasting dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast in preheated oven 12 to 15 minutes until tender and edges are golden.
Meanwhile, warm remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet with za’atar. Add cubed cheese and cook until warm, stirring to combine with seasoning.
Remove sprouts from oven, add cheese and 1 teaspoon vinegar and toss. Taste and add additional salt or vinegar if needed. Serve warm with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.
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