Brussels sprouts gratin

Brussels sprouts gratin with potatoes, spinach: This recipe from Mollie Katzen's "The Heart of the Plate" can be turned into a vegan dish if made with olive oil, soy milk and no cheese. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

2 teaspoons minced or crushed garlic

1/2 pound fresh spinach, baby leaves or coarsely chopped large leaves

Freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup cream, milk, half-and-half or soy milk

1 cup fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs

1 packed cup grated Gruyere, about 4 ounces, optional

Paprika, optional

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the highest position possible that will fit your baking pan. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or equivalent gratin pan with about 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil.

2. Heat a medium-large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and Brussels sprouts; cook until fork-tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain a colander, shaking to drain thoroughly.

3. Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium heat for about a minute. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil (2 tablespoons, if not adding butter); swirl to coat the pan. Melt in the butter, if using, and swirl again. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until the onion becomes very soft, verging on golden, about 8 minutes.

4. Stir in the garlic; lay the spinach on top to wilt. (It will quickly oblige.) Stir it in, along with the drained potatoes and sprouts, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, a generous amount of black pepper and the cream. Mix to get everything thoroughly distributed; transfer to the prepared pan. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

5. Sprinkle the top with the breadcrumbs and cheese; dust it lightly with paprika, if you like. Bake until the cheese is perfectly melted and turning golden, 15-20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Nutrition information:
Per serving: 174 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 28 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 345 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.

Katzen part of Ideas Week

Mollie Katzen is one of the speakers at this year's Chicago Ideas Week, an annual "weeklong gathering of global thought leaders created to drive ideas into actionable results," according to the event website. She is scheduled to appear Tuesday in a program titled "Food: At the Chef's Table" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St.

The session is billed as a gathering of "culinary icons who will share their favorite stories of how food brings people together (and) transforms experiences."

Slated to join Katzen are Cat Cora, restaurateur and television personality; Graham Elliot, celebrity chef and Chicago restaurateur; Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, founders of the lifestyle company Beekman 1802 and stars of the reality television series "The Fabulous Beekman Boys"; Bun Lai, a Connecticut-based chef, environmentalist and social activist; and Melissa Clark, columnist with The New York Times.

Tickets are $15. Chicago Ideas Week is hosting a food drive to benefit Lakeview Pantry. Audience members are urged to donate shelf-sustainable fruit juices, canned goods or dry goods at the talk. For more information, or to order tickets, go to chicagoideas.com.

wdaley@tribune.com