The Passion Fruits

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Being Green


Lately I’ve been in body purification mode. With spring on the horizon (Mother Nature, I trust that the glorious weekend of weather we just had was not a one-night stand) I’ve been eating more vegetarian meals, here, here and here.

I’ve cut out booze for a few weeks and I’m even considering a week-long detox diet where I will–obviously–lose a majority of my food options.

My  relationship with food (simplifying, more veggies…just general reduction) these past few weeks has led me to crave something deeper.  Having purged myself recently of excessive emotional baggage along with general worry and concern,  I’m finding the need–now–to do so, physically. I’m reminded of Bill Murray’s character in “Lost in Translation.” While soaking in a Japanese tub,  Bob Harris’ wife phones. He’s disconsolate, confused and, yes, lost:

“I don’t know. I just want to… get healthy. I would like to start taking better care of myself. I’d like to start eating healthier – I don’t want all that pasta. I would like to start eating like Japanese food.”

I’m not quite like Bob. I am not middle-age, at the end of my career and trapped in a marriage that is fine but stagnant. I am healthy and take good care of myself but, like Bob, I want “to start eating healthier.” Or, better yet, be a more consistent healthy eater.

For a recent dinner,  I made a small roast chicken (recipe will be posted later in the week) along with two vegetable side dishes: Brussels sprouts with balsamic and marcona almonds and a simple saute of greens with garlic. I didn’t want a starch like a potato or pasta as it would have been too prodigal when what I sought was simplicity: A meal that was  satisfying but not ponderous.

These side dishes fit the bill nicely and scratched whatever congenital itch I’ve long felt to include–always–some type of complex carbohydrate during the dinner hour. I make a fair amount of pasta as loyal PF readers will attest. This will continue, certainly. But, Bob? I understand. There are times when “I don’t want all that pasta,” either.

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Marcona Almonds
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4

24 small brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup of roughly-chopped marcona almonds (3-4 pulses in a food processor)

1. Wash the brussels sprouts well. Trim the stem ends and remove any raggy outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top and gently rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact (Or if you are lazy just toss them in a bowl with a glug of olive oil).

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Don’t overheat the skillet or the outsides of the brussels sprouts will cook too quickly.

3. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan flat side down (single-layer), sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 5 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they’re tender throughout. if not, cover and cook for a few more minutes.

4. Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Add balsamic vinegar. Season with more salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss the sprouts again, add the chopped almonds and give one final stir. Transfer sprouts to a warm platter and serve.

Greens and Garlic
Serves 4

2 pounds of mixed greens roughly-cut (kale, swiss chard leaves, escarole)
4 large garlic cloves, thinly-sliced
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Wash greens thoroughly and dry. Roughly chop and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large pan (Greens always take a minute to cook down and an average skillet, at first, will be too much to accommodate such mass. Use a dutch oven or large stock pot) on medium heat.

3. When oil is warm, add the garlic and stir for a minute or two until it becomes soft. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

4. Add greens. Season with salt and pepper and stir frequently until they wilt and become bright green.

5. Remove from heat and serve in a bowl.

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