Roasted Brussels sprouts with mulberry syrup and toasted nuts are a knockout on your holiday menu. Use any toasted nut you like. I love roasted, salted hazelnuts, a great balance with the tangy fruitiness of the mulberry syrup.
I find it shocking when I hear, usually from one of the nieces or nephews (read: younger kin), that they’ve never tried certain foods.
I’m not talking about edgy foods, foods like anchovies, veal sweetbreads, or even couscous.
We’ve got a whole generation over here who’ve never tasted an apricot, and have no idea what a date is.
I mean really: one young pumpkin of a niece who captivates any person who enters her sphere asked me last summer, when we talked about a raspberry-rose-something-or-other, if I even have any rosewater in the kitchen?
It wouldn’t be so eye-popping if these weren’t kids who are so totally into food, and Lebanese food (and, ahem, my blog and cookbook too). They get right in there with the adults when we fixate on not just our next meal as we’re eating, but the one after that, and even the one a couple of months down the line. When we get together in the summer, we make lists of all of the dishes we want to cover over the course of the vacation, far more than we could ever get to. We organize our time together in many ways around the food.
I tried not to spank, chase around the entirety of the house, scream, or ugly-cry when the rose water question was posed. But Aunt Maureen is prone to reaction; let’s just say the rose water question resulted in one of our round-the-house screaming chases that end in pretend (kind of) spankings and a noise level my mother cannot, will not, tolerate.
So, I come before you sheepishly when I say that I had never tasted a mulberry until I tasted mulberry syrup from Lebanon. It was a mistake, when we were sent a case of the syrup instead of pomegranate one time with an order for the Market.
We were, graciously, told to keep it and give the syrup a whirl. I took a fingertip full and got all excited, reminded of the same syrup I had tasted in Lebanon. But uses for the syrup escaped me until its true raison d’etre emerged during a random last-minute Thanksgiving moment couple years back.
The Brussels sprouts and their companion red onion wedges came out of the oven all gorgeously browned (trick of the trade: heat the sheet pan before adding the vegs). They were fully salted, tossed with a touch of olive oil, and yes, they were presentable as is. “As is” may work for weeknight, but not Thanksgiving.
One of the sisters-in-law went at the flavor-making with me for fast work (the turkey, and our people, were waiting…). We need sweet-tart, she said like a true Lebanese. She grabbed the lemons while I perused my bottles of potions. Balsamic could work, and so could honey, but the mulberry syrup, standing there mostly untouched, was the sleeper.
Someway somehow, the Brussels sprouts garnered serious attention on the crowded buffet. Our people wanted to know what that flavor was? It wasn’t obvious, yet its sweet-tart profile was, very much so. There’s berry flavor, deep and dark like a blackberry but tart like a raspberry.
I sat next to an older man on plane recently who spoke of nothing but the profusion of mulberries in his neck of the woods in the northwest. He noted their mulberry festival and all of the ways in which the mulberry is the star of the show there.
Deservedly so, right?, he asked. They taste so wonderful, don’t they?!, he asked/stated. He forced me into a corner, one our young kin would appreciate. I’ve never seen a mulberry in person, I said. Or tasted one. His eyes bulged in shock and he shook his head, and all I can say is thankfully we were belted into our seats, or I’d have had to run away, fast and hard.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mulberry Syrup and Toasted Hazelnuts
The mulberry syrup is so perfect and special here. But yes, you can substitute pomegranate molasses, or honey, or balsamic vinegar. Same with the hazelnuts--other nice options are toasted pine nuts or walnuts.
Cover a sheet pan with nonstick foil and place in the middle rack of the oven. Heat the oven, with the pan in it, to 500 degrees F.
Meanwhile, toss the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl with the olive oil, garlic powder, big pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. I don't toss the onion here because the wedges are delicate and will fall apart.
When the oven is heated, remove the sheet pan and quickly spread the Brussels sprouts out on it, turning them face down. Tuck in the red onion.
Reduce the oven temperature to 450 and roast the sprouts until they are bright green, with deep golden brown and some burnished spots, about 12-15 minutes.
Drizzle the brussels sprouts and onions all over with more olive oil, mulberry syrup and lemon juice. Toss on the sheet pan to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Finish with the hazelnuts and serve immediately.