Caramelized Brussel Sprouts & Lentil Salad (Valentina Solfrini, author of NATURALLY VEGETARIAN)

Recipe for caramelized Brussel sprouts & lentil salad

A soulful treat from "Naturally Vegetarian: Recipes and Stories from My Italian Family Farm,"

Valentina Solfrini
February 3, 2019 10:30PM (UTC)

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts & Lentil Salad

Reprinted from "Naturally Vegetarian: Recipes and Stories from My Italian Family Farm," by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017, Valentina Solfrini.


Sweet & Sour

I learned to appreciate Brussels sprouts in the United States, and when I returned home I immediately introduced them to the other cruciferous vegetables we grow in our garden. I love Brussels sprouts with lentils and shallots in this recipe. They really shine in this sweet-and-sour, delicious one-bowl meal. Rich and hearty, it is one of those recipes that usually wins over the hearts of even die-hard meat eaters. You can also pair the lentils with broccoli, cauliflower, or romanesco instead of Brussels sprouts.


Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main


1½ cup (10.5 ounces/300 grams) brown lentils

1½ pounds (700 grams) Brussels sprouts

10 large shallots

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup

1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed


½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Almond slivers, to garnish

Savory Balsamic Glaze (see Sweet and Savory Balsamic Reductions and Glaze on page 50) to top*

Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil for finishing

2 sprigs fresh thyme or marjoram (optional)

  1. Place the lentils in a large pot and cover them by at least 1 inch of water. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. The time varies depending on how fresh the lentils are. It could take 20 to 30 minutes, so taste them to check around the 20-minute mark. When they are ready, drain them, briefly run them under cold water, and set aside in a fine mesh strainer to let them dry.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C).
  3. Wash the Brussels sprouts and trim off any damaged leaves. Trim at the root end and make a shallow cross incision on the bottom of each one. Steam them for 10 minutes, or until they start to get tender on the outside.
  4. Peel the shallots and cut them in half, cut off the tough root, and cut each half in half again. Toss on a rimmed baking sheet with the Brussels sprouts, olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper and mix well with your hands to coat evenly. Roast for about 30 minutes, until tender and slightly caramelized.
  5. When ready, toss everything together in a large bowl with the lentils. Finish with a handful of toasted almond slivers, a drizzle of balsamic glaze, and thyme if you wish. Adjust the salt if necessary, and add one more drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Sweet & Savory Balsamic Reductions and Glaze*


These thick syrups from the region of Emilia add a hint of classy, sharp sweetness when used as a topping for salads, raw or cooked vegetables, sautéed vegetables, cheeses, mushrooms, or pastas and risottos that involve cheese, pumpkin, or radicchio. Just drizzle liberal amounts and taste the wow effect. Try the sweet glaze variation drizzled over fresh fruit, ice cream (yes, really), or other creamy vanilla-flavored desserts.

Makes about ½ cup

1 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar


1 scant tablespoon honey or packed dark brown sugar


1 clove

One ½-inch piece of cinnamon

2 juniper berries (can be skipped if you do not have any)

1 teaspoon herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or sage (optional)


One ½-inch piece of cinnamon

½ teaspoon vanilla extract, or a 1-inch piece of vanilla bean, seeds scraped

  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, place the vinegar and either the savory flavorings or the sweet flavorings and combine. Bring to a slow simmer and boil down the mixture for about 15 minutes, or until it reduces by almost half, stirring every 5 minutes with a wooden spoon. At first, the reduction might still look very liquid-y, but it will thicken as it cools, so it is important to not overcook it.
  2. The reduction is best used right away but can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to 2 days.

For a balsamic glaze: Balsamic glaze is an extra-thick variation of a standard reduction. To make the glaze, bring your reduced vinegar to a slow simmer over low heat. Meanwhile, in a separate small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon potato starch in ¼ cup water (the starch will not actually dissolve). While stirring the vinegar with a wooden spoon, add the water-starch mixture a little at a time. Cook for 2 minutes after you’ve added all the starch and remove the pan from the heat. Stir 1 minute more and let cool.


Reprinted from Naturally Vegetarian: Recipes and Stories from My Italian Family Farm by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017, Valentina Solfrini.

Valentina Solfrini

Valentina Solfrini is the author of "Naturally Vegetarian: Recipes and Stories from My Italian Family Farm"

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