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Brussels Sprout Petals with Coriander Vinaigrette and Pickled Cranberries

Many people seem to have negative associations toward brussels sprouts, usually because they conjure up memories of odiferous and overcooked little cabbages. Even one with a distaste for brussels sprouts will enjoy this version of the vegetable as a salad. The secret to cooking the sprouts is wonderfully simple. The petals are removed and cooked for less than a minute until they turn a brilliant green. Most people have never tried them this way and will not even recognize them. Tossed with pickled cranberries (recipe below), they make a colorful accompaniment for a buffet platter of cold roast beef, lamb or chicken.

Serves 8

To cook the brussels sprout petals:

2 pounds brussels sprouts, washed

1. With a paring knife, trim the ends off the brussels sprouts and peel away the leaves (like removing the petals from a rose).

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a mixing bowl with ice water and set aside.

3. Add the brussels sprout petals to the rapidly boiling water and cook for about 20 seconds. (They will turn bright green.) Do not overcook. Drain the petals through a colander and plunge them into the ice water. Allow the leaves to chill completely. Lift them out of the water, drain and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To make the coriander vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1/2 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. In a spice grinder or pepper mill, grind the coriander and fennel.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized saucepan, combine the vermouth or wine, onion, garlic, white vinegar and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then remove the pot from the heat.

3. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, bay leaf, black pepper and the ground fennel and coriander to the vermouth and vinegar mixture. Stir and cool to room temperature. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. (The vinaigrette can be made up to two days ahead of time and stored covered in the refrigerator. Allow it to come back to room temperature, remove and discard the bay leaf and shake well before serving.)

To serve:

2 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup pickled cranberries

1/2 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds, optional

1/2 teaspoon toasted coriander seeds, optional

1. In a small skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until it is crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels.

2. In a large salad bowl, toss the brussels sprout petals, bacon and pickled cranberries with the coriander vinaigrette. Divide the salad among eight plates and sprinkle each one with the fennel and coriander seeds.

Pickled Cranberries

These effortless little pickles make a perfect garnish for roast goose, pork, duck, ham or turkey and add a festive touch to holiday martinis. Pickled cranberries can be kept for several months in the refrigerator. They actually improve with age.

Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries, washed and picked over

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup apple cider

1/2 cup water

5 whole cloves

1/4 teaspoon whole allspice

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 whole cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon peeled and roughly chopped fresh ginger root

1. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a rolling boil.

2. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

3. Discard the cinnamon stick. Pack the cranberries into sterile decorative glass jars or plastic containers. Cover with the cooking liquid and seal.

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