I recently spent four glorious days in midtown Manhattan.
For two of those, I was pretty much closeted in the Roger Smith Hotel attending back-to-back seminars at a cookbook conference.
And apart from a few heart-wrenching hours spent watching the stunning but tragically haunting photos and videos of the holocaust at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, there was no other agenda.
That meant plenty of time to do what I enjoy most when visiting New York: Walking the bustling streets wearing comfortable shoes while checking out all and sundry, in particular the food.
Since our hotel was on Lexington Ave. near Grand Central Station, Ross and I stuck to that vicinity.
One evening, we stopped for huge, steaming bowls of luscious ramen at Sapporo (perfectly acceptable though not as authentic as my favourite spot Ippudo), our mandatory fix of sublime steak frites at Le Relais de Venise, mountains of meat amid the hubbub at Virgil’s Real Barbecue (good but not great) and a surprising couple of dishes at the popular eatery Toloache, home to Mexican celebrity chef Julian Medina.
Those two dishes were Grasshopper Tacos that tasted – well, like tacos filled with fried grasshopper – and a much more toothsome, room-temperature appetizer comprising quartered, fried Brussels sprouts tossed with vinaigrette, toasted pumpkin seeds and crumbled queso fresco that was sweet, simple and delish!
I have long been a big Brussels sprouts fan and have, of late, been championing this undeservedly underdog veg with some like-minded souls on Twitter (hashtag #brusselsprouts).
Back home in Toronto, I fiddled with – and, I think, improved – a recipe I found for Toloache’s sensational dish on the terrific Epicurious website. Here it is:
Toloache’s Brussels Sprouts with Pumpkin Seeds, Queso Fresco and Sherry Vinaigrette
The restaurant uses baby Brussels sprouts – they are sweet and delicious – but regular ones will do. Queso fresco can be found in Mexican food shops – it’s a soft white cheese ideal for crumbling into warm salads like this one.
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tbsp finely chopped shallots
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt to taste
3 to 4 tbsp vegetable oil
4 cups quartered Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
Kosher salt to taste
In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients for Sherry Vinaigrette.
For Salad, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and cook, turning, until lightly browned, crisp on the outside and still firm on the inside. Transfer to paper towel.
Place sprouts in serving bowl while still warm. Stir in Sherry Vinaigrette., then queso fresco and pumpkin seeds. Add salt if necessary.
Makes 4 to 6 appetizer or side-dish servings.