Matt began graduate school the first week of September, just when I began to work on a big new project of my own. The long, slow days of summer came suddenly to a halt.
No more lazy weeks hiking in Maine or long bike rides near Plymouth. I’m still writing a lot, still cooking a lot, but everything is now scheduled into bite-sized bits; sudden movement and looming deadlines abound. It’s exciting. But a little sad, too.
On Thursday I scurried around Boston doing errands after a morning of work. Little errands. Doctor’s offices, hair salons and the Apple store—menial, mind-numbing things that I’ve been avoiding for more than a year, ever since I began writing my book. I found myself in Coolidge Corner, Brookline, around 5 p.m. in order to turn my eyeglasses into the shop for new lenses and a tune-up. While they worked I had an hour to kill. I spent it in the nearby bookshop, standing in an aisle with my bag on the ground, reading cookbooks: my favorite activity.
Mollie Katzen wrote the Moosewood Cookbook, that famous vegetarian tome published in 1977. Yesterday, I picked up one of her more recent books, The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without, which is sweet in its handwritten font and line-drawn illustrations. Flipping through, I stopped at the section for brussel sprouts, a vegetable that I love dearly, especially when roasted crisp with just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Unfortunately, with this sentiment not everyone agrees. I’ve succeeded in converting my mother and her boyfriend, Charley, to the cult of sprout. I’m still working on Matt. Once I had a partial win with him, that time that I braised the brussel sprouts with bacon and balsamic vinegar. Bacon, after all, makes everything taste good. But I’ve been in the market for something a bit healthier.
Katzen, I read, sautés sweet onions and then adds the sprouts to a pot on the stove. She steams them until fork tender and then, just before serving, adds a maple and mustard sauce. Sweet and spicy. Easy and cheap. Quick, especially. Interesting, I thought.
Later that night, I began cooking at 8. It was raining, dark and heavy outside. Matt and I were starving and exhausted. Not even a glass of wine as I prepped dinner seemed to help.
I trimmed and halved the bag of brussel sprouts that I had picked up on my way home, put them straight into a pan hot with olive oil, and cooked them for a few minutes with salt and pepper until just beginning to brown. I added a splash of water and covered the pot. Ten minutes later, when they were tender and bright green, I added Katzen’s magic sauce: ¼ cup Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons maple syrup. I let it cook for a few moments more, infusing the dish with its flavor.
We ate them alongside grilled chicken sausages with basil pesto, sauerkraut, and some fingerling potatoes, which I had roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Matt took seconds. We both felt a lot better.