Monday, January 16, 2012

Whine a little for Brussels sprouts and oranges

Bark--A Guest Post by the Finn the Cooking Assistant (aka the dog-picker)

I'd wanted to bark about oranges, but Management has pointed out that oranges aren't grown locally in the Northwest. Still, I'm holding out hope that some farmers might be planning for global warming by planting citrus orchards. Until then, I decided to pair oranges with Brussels sprouts and the Management finally relented. Human regulations are never totally clear to canines.

To the canines, oranges and Brussels sprouts may sound innovative, but seriously, if you can think of flavor combinations, they've already been done. But the concept gives oranges a local twist and oranges are paws down one of the best things winter brings.


When I say orange, I'm talking about those little Mandarins where the peel slips off, and each segment squirts sweet-tart juice. I don't know about you but my taste buds do cartwheels and somersaults around the tingling flavors. And if you're a canine that loves the orange orbs, you must establish that you love it beyond compare. Then you'll do anything just for one taste, and then one more, and one more.

Communicating with humans is tricky at best. A canine can feel like a circus clown with the over-the-top-Oprah excitement needed to get humans to pony up oranges. Take my advice, for oranges, it's time to let your inner puppy go, and oddly, the more foolish your antics, humans enjoy the show and they'll willingly hand over good stuff again and again.

Let me just add some humans are incredibly slow learners, that's why over-the-top is the key begging success, if only the cardboard sign holders had this secret.

I'll tell you a story about how I came to love oranges.

In the last post, I mentioned I'd been adopted and that I'd expected to land in a a one-dog home. That's not wishful thinking but just about every dog I know visualizes the best-case scenario. We're good at that, why do you think they chose canines to be therapy dogs? Doesn't matter what's happening in the world, us canines are an upbeat bunch. Still, what a shock when I learned I'd be living with three gray-haired bassets, two were certified Geezers.

Here is the lazy cast of characters I first encountered:

  • Hunter (the former pampered model)
  • Abe (the Curmudgeon with one blue eye)
  • Badger (Tom's Dog or the girl)

Hunter passed away shortly after I arrived. I didn't get to know her, and when she didn't come home with Management one afternoon, Badger quickly claimed Hunter's former bed. No tears shed there. The Curmudgeon slipped outside and started singing. Mournful and bluesy, he started out so quiet you could barely hear him but once he cranked it up, it was the most beautiful dog voice I'd ever heard. The Thrill is Gone and B.B.King comes to mind.

Apparently Management approved of singing because they slipped him an orange segment.

I was intrigued and wanted what he had, so I tried my chops. Sadly, what we think as so easy-to-do usually takes more talent than we realize. No reward was forthcoming.

Still, I was determined to discover the geezer dog's secret to snagging rewards, so I hung in the background, watching. The classic movie All About Eve comes to mind. I've seen my share of old movies, too and that understudy to Betty Davis was a con artist.

Abe's best con was laying on the sofa in a deep coma-like sleep. With his oversized tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, he could've passed for dead, but when Management peeled and orange, that old boy was on the alert. In a flash he'd be sitting waiting for that orange before the first segment came off. He'd stare, shift his weight from side to side and hum quietly. If the segments didn't come fast enough, he trembled and drooled like crazy. Management laughed and rewarded him with one segment after another.

Management around here is a conundrum with reward requirements.

If I shimmied close and did exactly what Abe did, I got an orange segment after he snagged one. The old guy kept his gaze on the orange until until it was all gone.

And after the orange was clearly gone, he pushed past me with a low bad-ass low growl. Seriously, how bad ass could grandpa be? My apprenticeship apparently irritated old Blue Eye. We weren't about to bond over citrus any time soon. (to be continued.)

Brussels sprouts

Show me a dog that doesn't like Brussels sprouts and I'll show you a dog who hasn't been exposed to fresh 0ff-the stalk Brussels sprouts. I'm told the old model Hunter the one who passed away when I first arrived loved finding the sprouts in winter under farm vendor's booths at the market. Once Management discovered Hunter loved raw Brussels spouts, they were soon sharing with everyone.

For best results get Brussels sprouts right after a cold snap. The sprouts that are the sweetest are the ones that have been left on the stalks. This recipe calls for cooking, but I love Brussels sprout raw and this salad from 101 Cookbooks is one of my favorites, but then I'm not the chef, I only make suggestions.

My suggestion for you is to get your favorite chef right on this recipe. These Brussels sprouts came from Whistling Train Farm.

Here is the recipe:

Orange Brussels Sprouts
(Serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 to 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, rinsed and cut in half if big
Zest and juice of 1 organic Mandarin orange
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add oil and garlic cloves. Stir and cook until garlic begins to caramelize.

2. Add Brussels sprouts. Stir until coated with oil, then add orange zest and juice, cover, lower heat. Sprouts should be firm yet tender when done. Start testing at 3 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

A few tips for this recipe:

1. Don't get carried away and eat the sprouts before you even get started.

2. Go ahead lick your plate when you're done.

Here's to empty plates. Until next time--The Cooking Assistant.


Nancy Ging said...

Cooking Assistant, I love your slant on things. I have a question, though. My daughter is not fond of eating small bug protein, which she often finds on organic brussels sprouts. Do you have a favorite method for removing the little buggers before cooking?
P.S. Is there going to be a music album soon?

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Soaking in water for about 15 minutes usually helps at our house. I'm not so picky, most of my food choices hit the floor at one time or another. Sadly some hounds like humans are born with voices, and since Abe has gone, no singing. Maybe it's time to start.

Joan said...

Thank you Finn for writing this post...I love your writing style and technique to get management's attention. The sadest-doggy-eyes-in-the-world stare always worked for my dog.

I love brussels sprouts and finally got some from my garden this year without the pesky bugs. Planting them in a breezy area helps keep aphids away if you can manage it.

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

I know the sad-eyed look well. Thanks for the tips about bugs, I'd love it that you've got your own right outside your door. If only we grew them here..

Miz Helen said...

I just love you Finn, you are an awesome Cooking Assistant. I can't wait for your next post, I am still smiling and we can all use smiles like this at the end of the day. This is a great recipe, it is a great combination. Hope you are having a great week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
Come Back Soon!
Miz Helen