Angelo Smith's Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

Photo by Eva Kolenko

Photo by Eva Kolenko

Sharp and bacony with just the right amount of bitter, this warm salad has turned even the most ardent of Brussels sprouts haters.

When the first Pizza Antica opened in 2003 in an upscale mall in San Jose packed with designer boutiques, luxury apartments, and hip restaurants galore, something uncanny happened.

What was imagined as a simple, casual restaurant that would serve about 150 shoppers and strollers in need of refueling turned out to be a major draw. Indeed, everything turned out backwards: shopping became the diversion for the throngs of people who waited patiently, often two hours at a stretch, for a table at the modern-dayCal-Italia pizzeria, which has grown to serve a thousand meals a day.

Pizza Antica now numbers four locations, including two in the East Bay. Diners come for their fix of blistered pizzas, Tuscan fried chicken, manicotti with prosciutto, and other delights made with ingredients from small local family farms, including the restaurant’s own.

Chef Angelo Smith oversees all the locations. The Bay Area native practically grew up in the kitchen with his family and even cooked for his high school football team when he was an offensive lineman. Having traveled to Italy half a dozen times, he fell hard for the food and culture.

“It’s all about the simplicity of food,” he says. “Italians are reinventing the wheel. They let quality ingredients speak for themselves.” And they know better than anyone that you don’t have to break the bank to do so.

SERVES 6 to 8 as a starter or side

For the red wine–shallot vinaigrette

  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

  • 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad

  • 8 slices thick-cut bacon, diced

  • 1 small red onion, chopped

  • 40 Brussels sprouts (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 lbs), stems trimmed

  • 2 Tbsp canola oil

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

  • 1 cup store-bought or homemade croutons (see Note)

DIRECTIONS

For the red wine–shallot vinaigrette

  1. In a small bowl, combine shallot, garlic, thyme, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes to macerate. Slowly pour in oil and whisk until emulsified.

For the salad

  1. In a 12-inch (or larger) cast-iron pan or wok over medium heat, sauté bacon for 3 to 4 minutes, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate.

  2. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and return to stovetop over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until onion is soft and caramelized. Remove to a plate and reserve.

  3. Using a paring knife, cut out the core from the bottom of each Brussels sprout and discard it. Using your fingers, rip open each sprout (or cut in half with knife), separating the leaves easily. Discard any leaves that are spotty or dark. Heat oil in a cast-iron pan over high heat, until it barely begins to smoke. Add leaves and toss until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

  4. Add caramelized onions and bacon and toss for 1 to 2 minutes, until everything is heated through. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Gently but thoroughly toss with vinaigrette, eggs, and croutons and serve.

Note: To make your own croutons, take slightly stale bread (rosemary bread works well here but use whatever you like) and tear into bite-size pieces. Arrange in one layer on a lightly greased baking sheet. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil overtop and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated 375oF oven for 5 minutes. Stir the croutons and bake another 5 minutes or until nicely browned.

Reprinted from East Bay Cooks by Carolyn Jung with permission by Figure 1 Publishing, 2019

Brian Stewartrecipe, east-bay-cooks