Monday, January 25, 2010

of course of course

Horseradish and Brussels sprouts are two of those ingredients that people think of as having strong, overpowering flavors, but which can be mellowed quite a lot by cooking.  In fact, horseradish can piss you off that way -- if you've ever made a roast beef with a fresh horseradish crust, you may have been disappointed to discover that it wasn't the western beef-based equivalent of a wasabi pea.

But it also makes these ingredients more widely usable.  Making Brussels sprouts inoffensive to people who don't like the cabbagey-ness of the sprouts is simple: separate the leaves and cook them quickly, whether by roasting or frying, until they start to brown.  The flavor is sweet, a little nutty, and nothing like the cruciferous flavor of boiled cabbage.

Horseradish, once it's mellowed by cooking, can nearly disappear next to other strong flavors, but can also blend with them to give you this nice flavor, sharp but not acrid or pungent, right in the middle.  

Some examples:

Special sauce

"Special sauce" for a hamburger: a mayonnaise made with bacon fat for the fat component and Tabasco sauce for the acid.  Grated horseradish was cooked in the hot bacon fat and then mixed in along with some of the crumbled bacon.

Trout and sprout

Trout and sprouts.  The trout was sprinkled with water and then dredged through freshly grated horseradish and a sprinkle of cornmeal, and fried in bacon fat.  The Brussels sprouts were sauteed in the same fat with a little horseradish and topped with a few bits of bacon.

Lamb chops, Brussels sprouts, Kopanisti

Lamb chops (they're small) with sumac, over sauteed Brussels sprouts with a very simple vinaigrette (malt vinegar, preserved lemon olive oil, sumac, thyme) and Kopanisti ...

... which brings us to Kopanisti.  This is basically Greek pimento cheese, using feta.  I'm not clear on whether or not there's a more traditional cheese used for it in Greece -- I've seen conflicting statements in blogs, and I am far from an expert on Greek food, much less Greek cheese.  All I know is it certainly works well with feta: feta, roasted red peppers, a little bit of hot pepper (I used hot peppadews), and garlic, blended together.  Because feta is so much wetter than Cheddar, this is a dip rather than a spread like pimento cheese -- it's pourable, really.  It's also tasty and tangy, with a little heat and a lot of pepper flavor.

Pita, Kopanisti, feta, piquillo peppers, pea shoots

The Kopanisti also made a good sandwich, on pita bread with a few strips of roasted piquillo peppers, feta, and a handful of pea shoots for sweetness and crunch.

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