It was just a typical night after track practice during my sophomore year of high school. I came home - exhausted, parched, and ravished, as always - and snacked on a few dark-chocolate-covered dried berries before starting on some homework. A few hours passed and Mom called us all down for dinner, which I can’t remember exactly, except for one specific dish: brussel sprouts.
My 16-year-old self thought the little green frog-ball-look-alike of a vegetable was okaaaay, but definitely not a favorite. Whatever, though - I wasn’t picky at that time. We finished dinner, I showered, completed a few more homework assignments, and crawled into bed. Then, it hit me - you know, that feeling in your stomach that sometimes even might crawl up into your throat, slowly increasing your heart rate to tell you something’s not quite right in your body? I popped up out of bed (throwing up is my absolute most despised form of sickness) and carefully walked myself over to the restroom, not wanting to further upset anything going on in my stomach.
I will spare you the details and just tell you I repeated the process of hunch myself over to the bathroom —> get sick —> crawl back into bed —> feel the sickness creep up again at least two more times before the big one hit. One last time, at around midnight, I thought I’d get sick again, so I crouched down in the bathroom just waiting. It didn’t come. Weird, but hey, I won’t force it. I mustered up the energy to stand back up and head back to bed, and then everything went black.
Some amount of time passed and I woke up on my bathroom floor with my back against the cabinet, my t-shirt caught on one of my drawers, leaving my arm just kind of hanging there and making the whole scene pretty creepy looking. My first thought was that my head HURT like it never had before. I unhooked my arm from the knob and felt the back of my head, discovering enough blood on my hand to really freak me out. Adrenaline (and fear) pumped me up out of the bathroom and across the hall to my parents’ bedroom, where I ever-so-gently nudged my mom awake with the words, “hey, Mom, umm.. I fell in the bathroom and hit my head and now it’s bleeding.” And let me tell you - I spent years waking up my mom in the middle of the night to tell her I had a bad dream and ask her to come help me fall back asleep. Those nights, she’d slowly pull herself out of her cozy bed and walk with me back to mine. But this night, boy did she pop straight up out of her cozy sleeping situation with a fearful, “WHAT?”
So, then Dad woke up and sat with me while Mom called the ER. “Oh, yeah it’s not too bad,” Dad comforted me, but I later found out from him that the head wound was, in fact, pretty bad. The rest of this story is mainly just the three of us driving to the hospital, explaining to the doctor what happened, watching the nurse hook up three bags of water to pump into me because I was that dehydrated, and then feeling the warm, tender, love and care of her punch staples into the back of my head. Please, don’t miss the sarcasm there.
All in all, I hated brussel sprouts from that moment on until about three weeks ago. You’ve had those foods, right? The ones that you eat and then coincidentally, a couple hours later, you’re curled over the toilet getting sick and cursing some food you ate within the 12 hours, blaming it for your pain. Yeah, that was brussel sprouts for me. But here’s the good news: I gave them a second chance and obviously loved them because here we are, highlighting crispy brussel sprouts and even giving them a spot in the title of this recipe.
The key to making these brussel sprouts extra lovable: cook them in a cast-iron skillet with more oil than you might usually use. I explain this process in the directions, but basically, the cast-iron skillet helps them crisp up and covering them with a lid for a portion of the cooking process helps them steam and soften a little bit, reducing the bitterness and amping up the texture.
Ba da bing, ba da boom!
Makes 3-4 servings
For the cashew garlic sauce:
1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup almond milk
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. sea salt
For the pasta:
1 box Banza Cavatappi
2 cups organic brussel sprouts, washed and patted dry
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. avocado oil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh chopped chives, for garnish
Make the cashew sauce. Drain and rinse the cashews, then pat them dry with a paper towel. In a high-power blender, combine the cashews, lemon juice, EVOO, and milk. Blend until smooth, and then add the nutritional yeast and sea salt. Blend again until the sauce is homogenous. Transfer this to an airtight container, such as a mason jar with a tight screw-on lid. Set aside.
Cook the brussel sprouts. Chop the brussel sprouts into halves for small ones, and quarters for large ones. Each piece should be no bigger than your thumb. Heat a large nonstick skillet or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the avocado oil and let it heat up for 1-2 minutes, then add the brussel sprouts, cover, and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 6-7 minutes, uncovered, and stirring occasionally. When the brussel sprouts are tender when pierced with a fork and lightly charred on the surface, they are done - turn off the heat and cover to keep them warm.
While the brussel sprouts cook, begin cooking the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the pasta. Cook for about 8-9 minutes, or until al denté. Drain and rise the pasta with room temperature water to prevent it from sticking together.
Assemble the plates with a handful of pasta and toss with about 2-3 tablespoons of cashew garlic sauce. Add brussel sprouts and stir. Top with sea salt and pepper and fresh chives.
Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week.