Delectable Brussels Sprouts
One of the world’s healthiest foods
Brussels sprouts, once voted the most hated vegetable in England, have come into their own as nutritious and versatile side dishes. They also make delicious garnishes, appetizers, and healthy additions to soups and stews. We’ve eaten them locally as an appetizer served warm from a roasting pan with a maple-based sauce and Gorgonzola cheese; at home, we roast them with salt, pepper, and other root veggies including sweet potatoes: both preparations are delicious!
For those of you who shy away from these sweet, nutty gems, Brussels sprouts are small leafy green buds that resemble miniature cabbages. They come from the family of vegetables that also includes broccoli and kale. Brussels sprouts grow on beautiful large stalks and come in dozens of varieties and sizes ranging from marble-sized button buds to ones as big as golf balls. Popular varieties include ‘Bubbles’, ‘Prince Marvel’, and ‘Oliver’. These tiny green “cabbages” are exceptionally good for you. They are high in fiber and vitamin A, help prevent bone loss, and are full of antioxidants. They also contain a fair amount of protein, so your mom was right all those years ago—you really should eat your Brussels sprouts. The new recipes that we’re creating make them taste even better than what mom used to make.
First cultivated in Italy, Brussels sprouts reportedly grew in Belgium (hence the name!) as early as the 1200s. The Brussels sprouts that we know best in this country came to America in the early 1800s and were heavily harvested in California throughout the early 1900s. Huge quantities of Brussels sprouts are currently exported from California to Canada where they are more popular than here in the United States. They are cool-season vegetables but can generally be found in markets year-round, especially in this country. The sprouts are harvested when the lower buds mature and reach about an inch in size. Fresh sprouts should be firm, compact, and dark green in color. Avoid sprouts with loose leaves, which are yellowish and light in hand.
One helpful hint: don’t overcook the sprouts. Overcooking will turn the buds grayish and somewhat mushy. They will also develop a pungent flavor and can produce a slightly unpleasant odor that some people associate with the vegetable. This won’t happen if they are cooked until they are just tender.
We’ve included a couple of our very favorite Brussels sprouts recipes. The first is Jim’s favorite, an easy and incredibly tasty side dish that is “company worthy” and makes a beautiful presentation. The other is for Brussels sprout chips. They are fantastic—a healthy option for a salty, crunchy snack that everyone can enjoy. Well worth the effort! Enjoy!
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Balsamic Glaze
1¼ pounds medium-sized Brussels sprouts
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and freshly groundblack pepper
4 ounces thick-cut pancetta, cut into ½-inch slices
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Trim the ends of the sprouts and peel off the loose outer layer of leaves. Toss the sprouts in a bowl with the oil and salt and pepper. Place the sprouts in a large roasting pan.
3. Sprinkle the pancetta over the sprouts and bake for 15 minutes. Stir them about halfway through roasting.
4. Pour the vinegar over the sprouts and continue cooking for another 10-12 minutes until the sprouts are brown and tender and the pancetta is cooked.
Brussels Sprout Chips
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Brussels sprouts
½ teaspoon chili flakes
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Wash the sprouts and trim the ends. Gently peel back the leaves from the core and place them in a large bowl. Pat the leaves to remove any excess water.
3. Toss the leaves in oil and spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes until crisp. Sprinkle with salt and, if desired, add chili flakes, grated Parmesan cheese, or lime or lemon zest.