emerald jewels: seattle's book larder and pike's brussels sprouts
While in Seattle last week, I returned to Fremont's incredible Book Larder, the place you'll want to go if you're visiting Seattle and you love both books and cooking. It's a bookstore that carries only cookbooks. Their categorization (by region, and types of meals) and their selection is excellent. They carry books that can only otherwise be obtained by special order from other countries, like by ordering them from Amazon UK, which is usually how I get my new Jamie and Nigel fixes. If I lived in Seattle, I would have to create a Book Larder budget in order to attend their many community events, to better understand techniques like how to make croissants, or book signings by favourite authors like David Lebovitz.
I do have one unfortunate caveat concerning Book Larder, and that is the customer service/reaction to kids in the store. I was there a year ago with my niece and nephew, and the owner's response to these two typically well behaved kids was not very welcoming. My sister finally felt it was best to remove the kids to go for a walk while I browsed. I'm not trying to be biased and say that my niece and nephew are perfectly behaved, but they are pretty damn respectful and polite in most enclosed public spaces. I also very much understand that the Larder has a tight space, and particularly if there's an event going on (for which they hold in the main space, they don't have a separate area for these events), a couple of kids might make the owner nervous. This time around, we intentionally visited without the kids and I was surprised that the owner was still quite reserved. Maybe it's just the way she is, maybe that we were again there during an event (they still keep the store open for regular customers during these events), caused her distraction. Maybe you have to be a frequently-visiting local to break past that reserve? So if you have the ability to make it an adults-only adventure, you may feel more comfortable and less rushed. I highly recommended a visit to this cookbook haven. You'll be inspired and, if you're not a local, envious of their easy access to such an excellent selection of books and events.
This time, I picked up the new edition of Cereal, a UK publication I often have difficulty sourcing, and Bountiful, the cookbook by White on Rice Couple. What follows is my adaptation of their original recipe; they suggest a medium onion (which I replaced with spring garlic and spring onions picked up at Pike Place Market in Seattle), and to trim and halve the Brussels sprouts, which I gave more of a shred.
Braised Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Parmesan
adapted from White on Rice Couple's Bountiful
2 teaspoons olive oil
5 ounces (140g), pancetta, diced
2 spring garlic (just slice up the whole bulb, as far up the stem as you like)
2 spring onions (same treatment as the garlic)
1 pound (455 g) small to medium Brussels sprouts, sliced thinly or shredded
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
In a medium pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat begins to render from the meat.
Add the spring garlic and spring onions and cook until brown. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir to coat them evenly with the oil and rendered fat in the pan. Add the salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, until the Brussels spouts turn a bright green color.
Transfer to a serving bowl. Stir in the Parmesan and toss to combine. Serve warm.
The original recipe advises the step of adding 1/2 cup of water and braising the sprouts for 10 to 15 minutes before finishing them with the Parmesan. If you thinly slice or shred the sprouts as I did, they brown nicely in the initial 5-10 minutes, though of course, this is more of a saute than a braise.
I picked up the spring garlic, the spring onions, and the Brussels sprouts in Pike Place Market the morning I left Seattle, and lugged the heavy bag full of produce onto the plane with me. I smelled like spring garlic, especially after the bag broke as I was deboarding. Everyone behind me gasped at the spectacle I made of myself.
The pancetta was delicious (though I'm not really sure if it's possible to make non-delicious pancetta?), picked up from Liberty and made by La Quercia. They use organically (and kindly) produced Berkshire pigs out of Norwalk, Iowa.
The final dish over Israeli couscous? Totally worth Brussels sprouts and spring garlic rolling down the airplane aisles.