Wednesday, November 2, 2016

brussels sprouts slaw and the warm springs bath houses

I'm still in mourning for my loft kitchen above the gallery where I had a big island in the center of a large room where everyone gathered.  With spill over in to the upstairs library or down into the gallery, there was no lack of space for even the largest gatherings.  Since April, I've been getting used to my kitchen at the house on Ridge Road.  It's a lovely space with a south window above the sink looking out onto my beautiful front yard with mature trees and perennial gardens, but a bit closed off from the adjacent dining and sitting rooms, as most mid-century ranchers were.  Will be eager to put my mark on this charming house, starting with the kitchen :)

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm happiest in any kitchen cooking for friends and family, and most recently it was at a place in Warm Springs, Virginia with longtime Bridgewater College friends.  We stayed up till all hours talking and catching up - the first time in decades we've done more than brief chatting over the din of a Homecoming football game at reunion time.  We were missing a few key people including Kim, Sharon, Ruth, and Carol, but have agreed we need to plan this on a more regular basis.

Warm Springs is just 10 minutes north of Hot Springs and this quiet enclave in the mountains is home to natural springs.  The Warm Springs Bath Houses or Jefferson Springs were a short walk from where we stayed and are constantly fed by a 98 degree mineral spring.  We enjoyed a long hour soak (no talking encouraged, bathing suits optional) in the original 1836 Ladies Pool House.  The Gentleman's Pool House was built in 1761 and is the oldest spa structure in the United States.  I can't think of the last time I just floated endlessly looking up at a blue sky with the clouds drifting by.

After a relaxing day of hiking and exploring, I made Brussels Sprouts Slaw, a recent recipe find from Food and Wine Magazine, alongside poached salmon with rosemary brown rice pilaf.  I've altered the recipe a little bit (yes, it was begging for fresh ginger and dried cranberries), and here it follows:

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 lb. fresh brussels sprouts
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbs. limoncello jam or lemon marmalade (or fresh lemon zest plus 1 tsp. sugar)
2 tbs. lemon juice
2 tsp. dark mustard
1 tbs. minced shallot
2 tsp. fresh minced ginger
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved
1/4 cup dried whole cranberries
1 Ginger Gold apple (or other firm, crisp apple, preferably tart), julienned

Put the walnuts in a glass pie plate in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and toast until fragrant and browned, about 8-10 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Pare the brussels sprouts by removing any brown on the cut edge or any spoiled leaves, then cut in half vertically on the spine edge.  Cut edge down, continue to slice vertically and thinly, encouraging any loose leaves to fall off - but keep them as part of the salad.  A food processor can be used for this step, but I enjoy hand chopping, especially when friends are chatting nearby.  Place the brussels sprouts in a medium size bowl.

In a small bowl add olive oil, balsamic, jam, lemon juice, mustard, shallot and ginger.  Stir with a fork to combine and set aside the dressing.

Take a block of fresh Parmesan cheese and shave thin slices with a carrot peeler.  I got this tip from my friend Cindy, as I was always trying to simply slice the cheese paper thin with a butcher knife - not an easy feat!

Add the apple, cranberries, and cooled walnuts to the brussels sprouts, pour on the dressing and toss well.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate and serve later.  The salad is flavorful and holds well the first day or two, then starts to get a bit watery.  It's delicious served as a side with slow-cooked pork - add fresh red beets, rice pilaf, and nice Pinot Noir and you have a light and colorful autumn meal.

A trip to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia still makes my heart a-flutter every time I come around that bend heading south on route 81 just below Winchester - you realize every direction you look you are surrounded by mountains and breathtaking scenery.  And the years spent there from 1979-1983 produced life-long friendships I will always cherish.  From left to right, Lynne Hockley, Beth Feeney, Diane Garber, Cindy Bradley, me, Chris Spickler (roomie :), Kelly Kophazi, and Connie Ketchum.

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