Brussel sprouts and castelvetrano olives
If The Ordinary had a poetical patron saint, it might be William Carlos Williams. I love so many of his poems and his ideas about poetry and art (as I’ve read and understood them) that I wish I could sit down and talk with him. Or maybe make a meal for him. I wonder if he likes brussels sprouts? I’d certainly serve plum tart for dessert! Williams was from New Jersey, home of The Ordinary. He was a pediatrician as well as a poet, and I’ve spoken in the past
about how I like the idea of an artist having a grounding, regular job, and about how serving people as a profession seems to make one’s art more honest, warm, and resonant. Williams believed that poetry was important – necessary, even – to understand the chaos of life, and I’d agree that some form of creative outlet (as an artist or as an appreciator of art) is essential for a life well-lived. He chose as his subjects the ordinary and the every day, the regular people that he encountered as he moved through life. His language celebrates the rhythms of real speech as he heard it all around him, spoken by Americans, who were so close to the cadences and patterns of their words that they almost didn’t notice them. He was an innovator, not only in championing this entirely new, fresh form of American poetry, but also in introducing a variable foot and a triadic line break, based on his observations of the sound of the world around him – of his world. He was generous – he was a mentor to many younger poets, including Allen Ginsberg (also a Jersey boy!). He stressed the importance of the local – of appreciating and understanding your home and the ways that it shaped you – but he was not provincial. He studied and travelled abroad, and was fascinated by new ideas and new forms of art. I love poetry that seems simple, effortless and formless, but which is revealed, upon closer examination to be carefully, lovingly crafted, with attention to every small detail. I love the picture of Williams that I conjure as I read about him and read his poetry. He seemed a passionate, creative, warm and generous spirit. I love the fact that, in an era during which many artists thought of themselves as a superior, supersensitive class, he spoke about “common” people, and not in a deprecating, patronizing fashion, but as such a person himself, sharing his voice and his observations. His poems are spare and beautiful – frequently he describes a moment using images (not ideas but things) and odd particular details that convey far more meaning and emotion because we make the connections for ourselves.
the back wings
will grow lie
In which shine
pieces of a green
Salad of warm brussel sprouts
Speaking of bottle green, have you ever seen such a pretty salad? We bought a giant alien-looking sprig of brussels sprouts. I cut half of them from the stalk, roasted them, and tossed them with walnuts, arugula and castelvetrano olives, to make a sort of warm salad, or vegetable side dish. I dressed it with melted butter and balsamic. That’s right! A butter dressing for a salad. I thought it was ridiculously tasty – salty, juicy, and crunchy all at once. Even Isaac liked the brussel sprouts! I think they get a bad name, like many brassica, because they’re stinky if you broil them. But they’re lovely if you roast them!
Instead of a song, today, I’ll leave you with Williams reading his most famous poem.
about 2 cups brussels sprouts
olive oil to coat
1 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup castelvetrano olives, pitted and halved
2 T butter
1 clove garlic, roasted or toasted in the toaster oven
1 t dried oregano or a pinch of fresh
1 t dried basil or a small handful of fresh, chopped
salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper
a few handfuls of baby arugula
Preheat the oven to 400. Trim the stems from the brussels sprouts, and remove any loose and wilty leaves. If the sprout is particularly large, cut it in half. Coat the sprouts lightly with olive oil, and roast until they’re browned and starting to soften, turning them from time-to-time. Should only take 15 or 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, roast or toast your garlic – you can pierce the skin and then put it in a small dish in your toaster oven or your real sprout-roasting oven. When the skin is brown and dry and the inside is soft, peel the skin and smash the garlic. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and stir in the dried herbs, if you’re using them. Stir in the balsamic vinegar.
In a shallow bowl, make a layer of arugula and fresh basil, if using. Pile on the warm sprouts, the walnuts and the olives, drizzle the butter/balsamic mixture over and toss lightly. Add a bit of salt and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. If you like, you could add some shavings of hard cheese to the mix.