I am a sucker for traditions most likely because I grew up with so many, most of which are still alive today. In my family, Christmas Eve is the biggest night of the year. Despite the fact that I moved from New York 20 years ago (gasp!), I have never missed it once. And in all these years, it hasn’t changed much except for the fact that it has grown considerably from a sit-down dinner for 40 to a sit-down dinner for up to 80. We’re so many people, that we even have a priest come to the house to perform mass in the living room. Someone still dresses up as Santa and comes down the stairs after dinner to sit with the children who still believe. There are a few hundred gifts to be given and carols to be sung. It is truly a magical night.
As far as food goes, it’s the biggest potluck you have ever seen in your life. Italian Christmas Eve dinners usually revolve around fish and ours is no different. There are usually several versions of codfish, as well as eel, scallops, mussels, octopus and linguine with clam sauce. Would it surprise you that my husband’s Christmas Eve tradition is to stop by Sal’s pizza before coming to dinner? Thankfully I have a mother who loves vegetables as much as I do, but she’s usually the only one who makes any, except for salad. The long-standing tradition on Christmas Eve is that if you are pregnant, you get a break. You only need to bring a salad since that is much easier to make than almost anything else. In years past, my aunts, and now my cousins and my sisters and I have announced our pregnancies by entering the dining room with a salad. It’s always a very joyous moment.
Because I usually arrive on December 23rd and there are dozens of gifts from Amazon that need immediate wrapping, I usually make a pan of gingerbread to bring and call it a day. But also my parents are usually monopolizing their small-ish kitchen with eel prepartion and that’s enough for me to stay the heck out of there. This year I arrive on December 22nd and I have a whole extra 24 hours to play with, so I thought I would make something a little more interesting for Christmas Eve, something that showcases the kind of food I love to share. I immediately thought of this Brussels sprout leaf salad, which is such a different and delicious way to eat this incredibly nutritious and tasty vegetable that seems to get roasted more than anything else. I also think it’s just perfect for Christmastime because the green from the leaves and the red from the dried cherries are just so festive. The blanched leaves do not taste much like brussels sprouts at all, but in fact very neutral. The salad goes beautifully with turkey, pork, beef and fish. I would normally not recommend making this salad for an enormous crowd since you have to core each sprout and separate all the leaves for blanching. But I have it pretty well down to 30 seconds a sprout, with 2 pounds taking me about 20 minutes. My sisters, my daughters and I can likely tackle 10 pounds of sprouts at the kitchen table and catch up on all the gossip. We’ll do all the prep the day before, as well as make the vinaigrette and I’ll dress the salad just before serving on Christmas Eve.
So it looks like I’m starting a new tradition, which is that you can bring a salad if you want, especially if you are trying to get your family to eat more healthfully. But for the record, I am absolutely, positively, most definitely NOT pregnant!
- 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, washed, cored and leaves separated (discard the core)
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped shallot or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (do not omit this – it makes the salad!)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon raw honey or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon whole grain or Dijon mustard
- ½ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 Tablespoons dried cherries or cranberries
- 6 Tablespoons whole raw almonds, toasted and chopped or sliced
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water. In a large pot of salted (about 1 Tablespoon kosher salt) boiling water, blanch the brussels sprout leaves just until they are a vibrant green and barely tender (less than 2 minutes). Drain and immediately submerge in the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and dry well. You can do this in a salad spinner.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, lemon zest and juice, honey, mustard, sea salt and pepper. Continue whisking while slowly drizzling in the olive oil until the oil is emulsified or put everything in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously.
- In a large serving bowl, toss the Brussels sprout leaves, dried cherries, almonds and just enough vinaigrette to lightly moisten. Taste for seasoning and serve.
This is sooo delicious! I made it to go with our Thanksgiving dinner. We were tired of having roasted Brussels sprouts, and we wanted something light and bright to balance out the buttery, creamy heaviness of the other sides. I never knew you could do this with Brussels sprouts. It was perfect, and it went right into my recipe book of favorites. Thank you for sharing this recipe!
Great choice. So happy you enjoyed it. This is one of my favorite salads ever!
This has been my go-to salad for years now. At holiday dinners, it’s a classy accompaniment to holiday roasts (turkey, ham, beef). In the deep of winter, I’ll make a batch on the weekend and take it to work all week for lunch. The leaves hold up to the dressing for days. I love, love, love this salad! Thank you so much.
SO glad you love it. It’s in my top 5 favorite salads ever!
This salad is SO good!
The only problem is I can’t stop eating it!
Haha! Isn’t it unbelievably good? I think the only problem with it is that it’s a bit of work, but so worth it!
Just wondering if you steam the brussel sprouts first or go right into cutting the core out of each sprout then blanching? Thanks!
The best method is to remove all the leaves and blanche the leaves. A bit of work, but this salad is divine.
Made these last night for a crowd of 20 for our Hanukah party. It was the perfect accompaniment to the heavy brisket and latkes. It stole the show. Definitely worth the effort you get in praise for this one 🙂 As always, thanks!
That’s great, Alex! I agree, definitely a little more effort than a typical salad, but so much more special and delicious!
This salad was so delicious. I couldn’t wait to get back from my Florida vacation to make it. So good!!!
Hope you had a nice trip. I was excited to get back in the kitchen too after the holidays!
I tried this salad for our Christmas dinner (along with your banana date bread and coconut macaroons) and all were delicious! Everyone loved the salad and there were no left overs for us the next day. Thanks so much for all the delicious and healthy recipes!
I am so glad you made it and that it turned out to your liking. Sounds like you’ve been busy in the kitchen — love it! Happy New Year!
Since I LOVE Brussels sprouts, I shall definitely make it. Thanks for the recipe and happy holidays to you all.
Happy Holidays, Paola!
Yes, it is time consuming but it is delicious and so so beautiful. Happy Holidays
Much more beautiful than my pictures. Happy holidays to you, Tina!
Are you starting a new tradition of blogging your pregnancy?! Looking forward to your salad
Don’t make me make a gingerbread again!
Time consuming but SO WORTH IT! We did use pomegranate seeds and shaved Manchego. Decided to have the leftovers the next night, too. Very pretty salad.
I’m so glad you said that it’s worth the effort, because I really think that, too. I normally just plunk myself down in front of the tv and get the sprouts done lickety split. It’s one of my favorite salads ever.
This was my fave salad at Le Grande Orange! So glad you’ve shared it here! And…. For the first few paragraphs I really did think you were going to announce a pregnancy!!! LOL. Happy holidays! Xx
BIG LOL! THAT ship has sailed for good. Happy holidays and happy cooking!