Those of you who follow me on instagram know that you are looking at the latest episode of This Week in Pizza, featuring Brussels sprouts and bacon. It was a riff on a pie we order all the time at one of our favorite local haunts, and yes, it was delicious and easy and fast and bla bla bla, but that is not the whole story this time. If you pulled back to see outside the frame of this shot, you’d see a chicken breast browning in a skillet, a second dinner, all for Phoebe.
This has been the MO in our kitchen ever since she came home a few weeks ago telling me that her classmate had done a little research and uncovered something fascinating, if maybe slightly suspect: The best performing athletes, she said, are on this caveman diet called Paleo. Have you heard of it?
I replied with one of my favorite father-in-law expressions: Um, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday.
You guys know how I feel about diets that involve anything more complicated than the instruction everything in moderation. Not so into it. Though I usually know the broad strokes on most trends (there’s always nugget of wisdom buried in them that makes sense to me) I never know the details…which ones forbid nightshades or legumes or grains or dairy or gluten or phytoestrogens. It’s not a categorical dismissal, it’s more that I’m too lazy to do the legwork and extremely lucky that I’ve never had to cook for someone with allergies or illness-specific needs. Also, it goes without saying that as the mother of two girls, I’ve spent an enormous amount of psychic energy emphasizing health over weight, strong over skinny. (That doesn’t mean it’s been effective: social media and the world at large, even up against a mother’s will, have proven to be formidable opponents.)
So when she told me she wanted to go Paleo, my initial reaction was suspicion. Especially since she is 16 and still hasn’t gotten over her egg aversion, and as far as I can tell eggs seem to make up 90% of Paleo recipes out there. But she promised that the special prepping and cooking wouldn’t all fall on me — she’d be responsible for shopping lists, researching dinner recipes, making her own meals if what I was cooking didn’t work for her. She promised me she wouldn’t be too obsessive about it — if, say, some soy sauce slipped into the drumsticks marinade she would still eat them — so I agreed.
It’s not breaking news to say that raising teenagers is hard, but I need to remind myself that I am now in the stage of parenting where it’s pretty cool that my kids can watch Curb Your Enthusiasm with me and show me how to apply foundation using a beauty blender, and introduce me to bands named The Swmers, and remind me when the latest John Green book is out, and drag me to random dessert festivals in Queens that in a million years I wouldn’t go to on my own but end up being kind of anthropologically fascinating.
So cooking Paleo is the latest entry on that list, and perhaps not surprisingly I’ve gotten kind of into it. Our fruit and vegetable supply has never been more robust, it’s forced me to explore new techniques and ingredients (‘sup nutritional yeast?!) and paleo-izing dinner usually just means subtracting the quinoa or withholding the croutons from the kale salad. And even though she is the only one sticking to the plan, often I find myself recreating her snacks and meals for myself — lettuce wraps with roast beef, avocado, and avocado mayo; BLT salad with chicken and avocado; baked sweet potato with tahini dressing; apples and almond butter; nori wraps with turkey and avocado; strawberry-almond milk smoothies; spaghetti squash with mushroom “bolognese;” a big green salad alongside…wait for it…a fried egg. (Yesss!!!) And the other night, while this Brussels sprouts pizza was baking, I browned a few thin chicken cutlets in some bacon fat for her, added some of the Brussels sprouts and chicken broth and ended up making extra for myself.
I’m guessing that by the next blog post this will all be a distant memory (except the egg-eating; praying that one sticks) but until then, I’m going with it and most likely posting recipes that work for all the diners around the table without modifications. It’s sort of like cooking for toddlers again. Let me know if you have any advice or recipes.
Pizza with Brussels Sprouts & Bacon
(And chicken on the side)
1 16-ounce ball pizza dough (store-bought is fine)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, in thin slices
2 pieces good-quality bacon
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 cups shredded brussels sprouts
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated Parm
Preheat oven to 475°F.
Place pizza dough in the center of a lightly-oiled rimmed cookie sheet. Using your fingers, stretch out the dough to the sides of the pan. The goal is to get the crusts as thin as possible. Brush dough with about a tablespoon of olive oil that’s been spiked with a little garlic powder. Top with mozzarella, leaving a one-inch rim around perimeter.
In a large bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts and shallot in remaining olive oil. Add salt and pepper and toss again. Spread on top of mozzarella. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until crust looks golden and Brussels look cooked (it’s ok if they are slightly burnt).
While pizza bakes, add bacon to a large skillet set over medium heat. Fry until crisp, remove to a paper towel to drain.* Chop into small pieces and sprinkle on top of pizza along with Parm.
*At this point, I browned one boneless chicken breast (cut horizontally into two thin pieces) in the bacon fat, removed them, tossed another handful of Brussels sprouts and shallots in the pan, then placed chicken back in with a little homemade chicken broth. Simmered another 5-7 minutes until chicken was cooked through, then topped with bacon crumbles.