by Pam Vukelic
When cooked properly, Brussels sprouts are very tasty. They’re extremely versatile, highly nutritious, and readily available at your favorite market. Buy them fresh, either in the 12 oz bag in which they can be steamed in the microwave in a couple of minutes, or, when possible, on the stalk. If you have bad memories of Brussels sprouts, it is probably because they came from a box, had been frozen, and then were overcooked. Use fresh and small sprouts for the best flavor.
There are zeros or very low numbers in the right places on the nutrition label – percent daily value in one serving of fat, cholesterol, and sodium and only about 35 calories in one cup. Brussels sprouts have significant amounts of vitamin K (190%), vitamin C (120%), vitamin A (15%), folate [pregnant women take note] (15%), and dietary fiber (12%). They reportedly help to reduce the risk of colon cancer and reduce the likelihood of development of other types of cancer. Whole Living magazine lists Brussels sprouts as one of their 38 power foods.
Believed to have first been cultivated in Belgium in the 1500s, Brussels sprouts have been available in America since the World War I era. Although I cannot vouch for this claim from personal experience, Belgian folklore urges you to eat them at the beginning of your meal as they will prevent you from becoming drunk. The Canadian community of Rogersville in New Brunswick holds an annual Festival Des Choux de Bruxelles. Home to Trappist monks and Trappistine nuns, who also have orders in Belgium, the community holds the festival to honor the Brussels sprout in late July or early August.
There are entire cookbooks devoted to Brussels sprouts, but then, it seems there are entire cookbooks devoted to every possible ingredient (e.g., bacon, peas, kale). One of the recurring recipes in the cookbooks and on websites devoted to recipes is for roasted Brussels sprouts. Doesn’t every vegetable taste delicious once roasted? Ina Garten recommends roasting at 400 degrees F for about 40 minutes after tossing them in olive oil and pepper. For even cooking, cut an X into the stem end and cut large heads in half. The leaves that fall off the heads and get extra brown and crisp are worth fighting for. I think the last time I fought for a morsel of food was when I was a kid and argued with my siblings about who got the heart the last time from a roasted chicken that frequently served as Sunday dinner. Reduce some Balsamic vinegar to a syrup and toss over the sprouts just before serving for a tantalizing tangy touch.
Another popular method of preparing Brussels sprouts is to brown them in a skillet in butter, cut edge down, then finish cooking by putting the lid on and steaming for a couple more minutes. Parmesan, Bleu, and Pecorino Romano are excellent cheese choices to sprinkle on top. For a little texture, add roasted walnuts, pine nuts, or dried pomegranate seeds. Pancetta cubes, Italian sausage, or bacon crumbles increase the umami element, and, according to our son, Reed, everything tastes better with bacon added to it.
Alton Brown, still one of my favorite TV chefs, tells how to prepare Brussels sprouts on the grill. In the spirit of optimism, after this long winter, fire up the grill and preheat to medium heat. Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, and dry mustard in a small bowl. Heat the Brussels sprouts in your microwave for 3 minutes on high, then toss them in the oil mixture. Thread on a metal skewer leaving about 1/2” between each head. Grill, with the cover down, for five minutes, turn, and grill five more minutes. Return to the bowl to soak up any last remnants of the flavored oil before serving.
This delicious recipe from “Vegetable Heaven” by Mollie Katzen** would make a great side dish for any dinner. The sauce is substantial, and I prefer to use it sparingly. Any extra sauce makes a great topping for broiled fish.
Brussels Sprouts in Creamy Mustard Sauce
Sauce 1 ½ c plain yogurt
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T honey
¼ t salt
1 T fresh (or 1 t dried) dill
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts
1 T butter
salt to taste
Whisk sauce ingredients together and gently heat in microwave. Quarter the Brussels sprouts or, if small, leave whole. Melt butter in skillet. Add sprouts and lightly salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until tender (8-10 minutes). Transfer to serving bowl and top with sauce. Add light dusting of additional dill to garnish. Serves 6
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
6 slices bacon
1/3 c white wine vinegar
1 1/2 T maple syrup
2 t Dijon mustard
1/2 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced*
6 c romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 c toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
Cook bacon in skillet until crisp. Remove from pan, reserving 2 T drippings. Cut bacon into large crumbles. Add vinegar, syrup, mustard, salt, and pepper to skillet. Stir well to combine. Add Brussels sprouts; cook 1 minute, stirring to coat. Cover and cook 2 minutes longer. Toss Brussels sprouts with romaine in large bowl. Sprinkle with bacon and pecans. Serves 8
* Use food processor with slicing blade
Recipe from Cooking Light
*I am curious how young one can be yet know the line he is famous for, “I don’t get no respect.”
** Mollie is author of the infamous “Moosewood Cookbook” named to the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2007 and is credited with being the driving force behind the vegetarian movement in the US.