Crunchy warm Brussels sprouts work beautifully with salty bacon, tangy Dijon and dried cherries! An extra surprise crunch from almond slices and this salad is everything your taste buds dream of!
I've had a special fondness of cherries my whole life. More than any other fruit, cherries are by far my favorite. I don't know if it's because they're a beautiful fruit or because they taste best only when in season.
When I lived in Germany, we rented an apartment from a sweet, generous couple on the outskirts of a sleepy village. We shared the house. They had the downstairs and my family the upstairs. It was a decent size place - not big by any means but it was comfortable and we made do. We were used to small living but I don't recall spending much time inside anyway. Even during the coldest of winter days, I would play outside until numbness took hold of my fingers and toes. Back then, the elements didn't have the same hold of me as they do in my adult years.
But summer...summer was my favorite time of year. Aside from hours spent roaming around on my used white Schwinn, one of my favorite activities was simply hanging in the back yard, daydreaming. On many days, I would climb a cherry tree and help myself until I could eat no more. Suspended above freshly cut grass, there was no sense of time, nothing pressing to get to and no anxieties to indulge. Gazing through branches at a clear, blue sky on a July afternoon, belly full of cherries, was a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time.
Maybe this is where my love of cherries solidified. Maybe I associate them with carefree summer days, where the sweet smell of warm air in my mind still mixes with the sense of possibility and all is right in the world, if only for a few moments.
Since cherries are out of season right now, the next best thing is dry cherries. Real, juicy dry cherries with no added sugar. I impulsively bought a few too many and wanted to make something with them aside from eating them by the handful. I had a bunch of Brussels sprouts in the fridge, a few leftover slabs of bacon and this is how this salad was born - crunchy, salty and sweet. This salad is definitely not for the lighthearted. While I'm only using two strips of bacon, I use every single part of the bacon, including the cooking fat, to whip up a delicious dressing.
Sliced Brussels sprouts work exceptionally well as the base for this salad as they hold up well during cooking releasing all their wonderful flavor!
Tips for making Brussels sprouts salad with bacon and dried cherries
Here are some tips and alternatives for making this quick and delicious salad.
Can you make the Brussels sprouts salad without bacon?
You certainly could. If you wanted to keep it vegan, just use 1 tbsp olive oil to cook the shallots and Brussels sprouts in and 2 tbsp for the dressing as a substitute for the bacon fat. And follow the below instructions for the dressing substituting with the olive oil.
If you can’t find dried cherries
You could substitute using dried cranberries or raisins and even chopped up apricots would work. My recommendation is to look for naturally dried fruit without added sugar.
If you don’t want to use almond slices
You could substitute with any other nut of your choice or even seeds if you prefer. Or you can leave them out all together but I find they add an additional crunch that works perfectly in the Brussels sprouts salad.
If you don’t like shallots
If you don’t like shallots, you can replace them with leeks, which are milder. Just use the white part and finely chop it and use it in place of shallots. Leek cooks pretty quickly as well so it only needs a few minutes.
No matter if you choose the paleo or vegan variation, this salad may just become a staple.
warm brussels sprouts salad with bacon and dried cherries
prep time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 10-12 minutes
makes: 2-4 servings
2 thick slices of bacon cut into small pieces
1 16oz package of Brussels sprouts sliced
1 shallot finely chopped
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp sliced almonds
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
cast iron pan or another sturdy pan
small mixing bowl
Preheat pan on medium and add bacon. Cook until crispy stirring regularly - about 5 minutes. Remove bacon and set on paper towel lined plate. Reserve cooking fat in mixing bowl.
In the same pan, add olive oil and shallot and cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring. Add Brussels sprouts and pinch of salt. Cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. You still want a bite to the Brussels sprouts.
Meanwhile, combine leftover bacon fat, mustard, lemon and 1/4 tsp pepper and whisk well.
Once sprouts are cooked, turn off heat and add bacon, dressing, cherries and almonds. Stir well to combine all ingredients. Enjoy.