Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Pecans, and Preserved Lemon

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Pecans, and Preserved Lemon

Man, who doesn’t like a big ol’ bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts?

If you don’t, I suspect you haven’t had them prepared correctly.  And while it’s tempting to treat Brussels sprouts like any other vegetable when roasting, the usual “toss ’em in olive oil, add salt and pepper, roast at 400º F” business doesn’t really work as well as it should.

Too often, the little guys are burnt black on the outside while the insides are still crunchy and nearly raw.  And of course, Cook’s Illustrated has a simple solution to that problem: roast them covered, with a tiny splash of water, so they steam a little before getting uncovered and roasted until nicely browned.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Pecans, and Preserved Lemon
dark brown is okay, black is not

Tell you what, I love me some Brussels sprouts, and this is the best method I’ve ever used for roasting them.

But plain roasted Brussels sprouts — lovely as they are — can be a little boring.  I get bored easily.  Besides, I have a fridge to clean out.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Pecans, and Preserved Lemon

So I tossed my sprouts with some bacon, pecans, preserved lemon, scallions, and some phenomenal hot sauce that came with a recent order of Ethiopian take-out.  (I have no idea what it is, but I’m tempted to order from that place again just for the hot sauce.)

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Pecans, and Preserved Lemon
quinoa turns any side dish into an entrée, right?

I was going to grate some pecorino romano over everything, but that would’ve meant washing the Microplane later.  That was one step too far.  Next time, maybe.  It didn’t need it.

This is one of those dishes that’s greater than the sum of its parts.  The ingredients all sound good together on paper, but on the plate, it’s like daaaaang.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Pecans, and Preserved Lemon


Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Pecans, and Preserved Lemon

Yield: 2 servings

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Pecans, and Preserved Lemon

Adapted in part from Cook's Illustrated.

This dish is equally viable as a side or an entrée (served over quinoa or other starch of choice), and is awfully satisfying. Even better: it all comes together in the time it takes to heat the oven and roast the Brussels sprouts.

I happen to have an aging jar of preserved lemon in my fridge, which I love using with most any roasted vegetable. If you don't have such a jar, do not fear. It will be just as good without.


  • 6 to 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
  • A drizzle of olive oil, about 1 tablespoon
  • 1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 4 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon preserved lemon (optional, but lovely), chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce of choice, or to taste
  • Cooked quinoa, rice, couscous, or short pasta, to serve (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 500º F, and place a rack in the upper-middle position. (This is a perfect time to toast the pecans, while the oven heats. They'll need about 5-10 minutes in the warming oven. And if you need to make some quinoa or couscous or what-have-you, now's the time to start it.)

2. Slice the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise (or into quarters if they're large). Toss on a rimmed baking sheet with a light drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and black pepper, and 1 tablespoon water. Arrange the sprouts cut-side down, and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.

3. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil, and continue roasting for 8 to 12 minutes more, or until knife-tender and browned.

4. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a pan over medium heat until browned and crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan, chop, and set aside. Save the rendered fat, because it is delicious and it makes the best fried eggs.

5. In a large bowl, combine the pecans, scallions, preserved lemon, lemon juice, and hot sauce. Mix in the bacon, and a spoonful of bacon fat; set aside.

6. When the Brussels sprouts are done, toss them while still hot with the bacon and other ingredients in the bowl. Serve immediately as a side, or over quinoa (or what-have-you) as an entrée.

Want to cook some quinoa, but don't know how? It's your lucky day.

1 part quinoa (1/2 cup is more than enough for 2 servings)

2 parts water


Bay leaf (optional)

1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Yes, you really should do this.

2. Put rinsed quinoa in a pan over medium heat. Toast and stir frequently until you don't hear any more sizzling-type noises (this means the quinoa is dry and getting toasted).

3. Add the water slowly, because those quinoa like to jump when the water hits 'em, and they're a pain to clean off your stove later.

4. Add salt (1 scant teaspoon per cup of quinoa) and bay leaf, and bring to a boil.

5. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.

6. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving. Quinoa!

Wheat Berries with Radishes and Pecans; Or, a Winter Trip to the Farmer’s Market

Here in Chicago, the granddaddy of all farmer’s markets is the Green City Market, the only market to stay open all year round.  If you’re interested in local, sustainable, organic, farm-direct food (and we certainly all are, am I right?  Every meal, right?), you’re bound to end up shopping at Green City for most of your food.

Their rigorous standards for their vendors guarantee that everything is as it appears, that you actually are buying those apples or tomatoes from the nice lady or man who grew them, not from a re-seller.  And in the depths of Winter, when every other farmer’s market has shut down, Green City remains not as a deplorable sole option with a captive market, but as glamorous and worthy a destination as it is any other time of year.

too cold for most markets

Green City Market recently ran a photo essay contest, in which they invited food and photography junkies to shop at the market on a particular date, cook the food at home, and share the photos of the whole experience.  I decided to participate on a whim, mostly because any excuse to practice and improve my photography skills is probably good for me.

You can see the photos I entered, along with all the other entries, on this site they’ve set up.  If you like, you can rate each entry by clicking on the stars at the top of each one.  And remember, thumbnails rarely do justice, so click on each photo to see it full-size.

As there was a limit to the number of pictures one could submit, I had to whittle down the over 100 photos I took that day, so I’m posting some extras here.  And as a special bonus to all my lovely, lucky readers, below you’ll find the recipe I created to showcase the bounty I brought home from the market.

you can't pay someone enough to shell pecans for you. these are from three sisters garden.
excellent cannelés from floriole bakery
floriole bakery
heritage prairie farms
heritage prairie farms
heritage prairie farms
genesis growers
genesis growers
genesis growers

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the pictures from this contest!

Wheat Berries with Radishes and Pecans
Serves 4 to 6

This recipe has a lot of different steps, true, but they are all accomplished in the time it takes the wheat berries to cook.  Even better, you only use two pans: one for the wheat berries, one for every other step (with no washing-up required in between).  The flavors here are Spanish-inspired, with smoked paprika, thyme, Sherry, and anchovy; the chewy wheat berries soak them all up with gusto. This dish would be great any time of year, warm in the Winter, and cold in the Summer.  We ate this as a main dish, but it would also be a special side dish for any simply-prepared meat or poultry.

For wheat berries:
6 cups chicken stock or water
2 cups wheat berries, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon salt
3 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (zest it first!)
1/4 cup (packed) chopped parsley
3 scallions, chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste

For anchovy-toasted pecans:
3 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup raw pecans, chopped roughly
Salt, to taste

For smoked paprika breadcrumbs:
1 scant tablespoon butter
1/2 cup panko
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Zest from 1 lemon
Salt, to taste

For sautéed radishes:
2 to 3 teaspoons butter
1 bunch radishes (about 1 pound), cut into quarters
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Optional finish: fried or soft-boiled eggs

1.  Bring the chicken stock or water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.  Add the wheat berries and salt, and return to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until wheat berries are tender.  Depending on the type of wheat berry, this may take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes; taste occasionally to determine doneness.  Add additional liquid if the pot begins to dry out before the wheat berries are cooked.  When fully cooked, drain wheat berries of any remaining liquid if necessary.

2.  Meanwhile,  heat a skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the anchovy fillets and cook, stirring, until broken up, just a minute or two.  Scrape into a large, non-reactive bowl, and whisk in olive oil.  Let cool briefly.  Add thyme and set aside.  Don’t bother washing the skillet.

3.  While wheat berries finish cooking, make the remaining accompaniments.  To make the toasted pecans, heat the same skillet over medium heat.  Add the anchovy fillets and cook, stirring, until broken up.  Add the butter, and let melt.  Toss the pecans in, and stir often until fragrant and toasted, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with a little salt.  Remove to a plate to cool.  Wipe the skillet out with a paper towel if necessary to remove any dark or burnt bits that may remain, but don’t bother washing it.

4.  Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the butter, and melt.  Add the panko, and toss until evenly coated with butter.  Cook just until beginning to turn golden brown.  Remove from heat, and stir in the paprika, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt.   Transfer to a bowl.  Don’t bother washing the skillet.

5.  Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the butter, and melt.  Add the radishes and sauté until cooked to desired doneness, 2 to 3 minutes for al dente, slightly spicy radishes, or up to 8 to 10 minutes for softer, less peppery ones.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

6.  To finish, add the Sherry vinegar, lemon juice, parsley, and scallions to the flavored olive oil in the large bowl.  When the wheat berries are fully cooked, drain if necessary.  Add to the bowl while still warm, and toss with the dressing.  Let stand 5 minutes or so to absorb some of the dressing.  This is a good time to fry or soft-boil an egg (follow these directions, but let stand only 4 minutes) if you’d like one; a runny egg yolk is highly recommended here.  (If you’re frying an egg, there’s no reason you can’t use the same skillet again.  Bonus.)

7.  Toss the wheat berries with the toasted pecans and sautéed radishes.  Serve each portion topped with an egg (if using) and a heavy-handed sprinkling of paprika breadcrumbs on top.  Leftovers keep quite well in a refrigerator for up to a week, and are even better the second and third day.