In Praise of Brussels Sprouts

by Sarah Henry on December 9, 2009 · 12 comments

in recipes,vegetables

Flickr photo by cbcastro courtesy Creative Commons attribution license.

Since I spent two hours Monday outside in the freezing cold chatting with a couple of West Marin farmers as they cut, cleaned, and boxed some bodacious-looking brussels sprouts (more on the growers at Gospel Flat Farm later this week),  I thought it timely to weigh in on this most delectable and much-maligned member of the Brassicaceae family.

Yes, many of us have memories from childhood of horrid-smelling, bitter-tasting, floppy-looking boiled brussels rolling around our plates in all their unappetizing glory.

Banish that image from your mind for good. Perhaps one of the simplest ways to enjoy this cruciferous vegetable, is simply tossing it in some olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and then roasting these green balls of goodness at super high heat — we’re talking 475 or so degrees — until they’re tender and their caramel-like sweetness releases. For a complete how-to on the subject check out this quick roasting recipe from Farmgirl Fare or this gorgeous-looking, Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts offering over at 101 Cookbooks.

I picked up a killer recipe for the humble sprout when I chaperoned my kid’s kindergarten class on a field trip to veggie mecca Berkeley Bowl, where each child got to pick a piece of produce to take back to the classroom for follow-up fun.

My boy opted for the brussels sprouts clinging to their stalk, not because he loved ‘em but because of their cool alien-from-out-of-space appearance. A fellow produce picker shared his fave way to eat this cabbage-like veg, a dish that included pecans and gorgonzola cheese. This recipe at Kalyn’s Kitchen is pretty similar. Try it. I swear you’ll never think of these leafy green buds in the same negative way again. (I like to toss in some dried cranberries too for a little festive touch. And switch in hazelnuts for pecans, if you’d prefer.)

Flickr photo by Ed Bierman courtesy Creative Commons license.

Here’s a handy dandy tip: If you decide to boil or steam your brussels sprouts take care not to overcook them as that releases a chemical with the unwieldy name glucosinolate sinigrin, and it’s this pesky substance that produces the stench, I mean, sulfurous odor, that you’ll recall from your youth. Cutting these buds in half before cooking can also help minimize the smelly chemical, apparently.

Before I leave you with some more ways to enjoy these verdant veggies, any copy editors/language gurus want to weigh in on whether it’s Brussels sprouts or brussels sprouts? The New York Times recently had its say on the matter and although it’s French fries the gray lady says its brussel sprouts and lima bean. Go figure.

Below, a smattering of recipes designed to help you change your mind (if that’s necessary) on the merits of these little orbs of loveliness.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pears from Food Blogga
Love the combo of pear, ginger, and thyme in this simply satisfying side.

Creamy Brussels Sprouts Gratin from A Veggie Venture
Brussels sprouts, cream, and breadcrumbs. What’s not to like?

Shredded Brussels Sprouts & Apples 101 Cookbooks
With or without tofu (which makes this into a one-skillet meal).

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon & Poppy Seeds
Lighthearted Locavore
Another mighty fine taste combination.

Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts Gratin Serious Eats Channels Bon Appetit
Cheese, cream, pine nuts, and parsley baked with two nutritious veggies in one delicious dish.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

jacqui December 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Thanks Sarah, I might just seek out some brussels sprouts and try these yummy ideas… I never buy them, I put them in the too hard basket long ago when choosing foods that wouldn’t be argued over at the dinner table when my kids were little. As I never got past that smell, I found it hard selling it to them. So interesting to learn how the odor occurs and that it can be avoided. Thoughts… Jacqui
P.S.: Showing my ignorance now…I didn’t even know the sprout, brussels had that s on the end. I always thought it was a brussel sprout! I’ve learned two things before my coffee this morning! Lovely.

Reply

Sarah Henry December 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Hi Jacqui,

Oh, it’s always nice to learn two things before the morning coffee! Glad to be of service. And when brussels sprouts are in season again in Sydney I do hope you’ll give them another chance. I’d be surprised if you weren’t pleasantly surprised.

Reply

Margaret December 10, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Whether or not brussels sprouts should be capitalized is not the issue for me. Until now, I didn’t realize there was an “s” on the end of the word! Who knew!

We love our brussels sprouts with a little bit of olive oil (not too much), broiled for a few minutes. Even the kids eat ‘em that way.

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Sarah Henry December 11, 2009 at 8:30 am

And why not? Brussels sprouts are delicious broiled, as you point out Margaret.

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susan from food blogga December 15, 2009 at 10:46 am

Thanks for including my recipe! I’d love to try each and every one you have listed here. :)

Reply

Sarah Henry January 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm

My pleasure, Susan. Hope you enjoy the recipes.

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Farmgirl Susan December 17, 2009 at 10:19 am

What a wonderful post! I’m crazy about Brussels sprouts. Thanks for including my recipe. West Marin is one of my favorite places on the planet – and that was before I knew they grew Brussels sprouts out there. :) I went back and forth on the capital B thing when writing up my recipe, and after checking some site/source I no longer remember, went back through and capitalized even though I was still undecided – interesting about the NYT.

Reply

Sarah Henry January 2, 2010 at 8:24 pm

You write Brussels and I write brussels but we both agree that they’re delicious AND West Marin is a special, rural place, and you’re a farmgirl no less.

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