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Finding the Beauty in Brussels Sprouts

Find something to love about this much maligned vegetable with this delicious recipe.

Brussels sprouts.

With two words I've probably sent half my readership running for the hills faster than Lance Armstrong's supporters.

These small green orbs, resembling baby cabbages, are more maligned than perhaps any other vegetable. But is the reputation deserved, or are they simply misunderstood?

Brussels do not evoke indifference. People either love or hate them — and no wonder! Back in the day it was common to prepare sprouts by boiling them until they were limp, gray and unappetizing, removing most of their nutritional content along with any remnants of texture and flavor. Factor in a characteristic pungent aroma, and boiled brussels aren't about to win any popularity contests.

As a child, I recall my mother's attempts to bribe me and my siblings into eating brussels sprouts. Her persistent efforts yielded lackluster results. We simply didn't like them, and no amount of pleading or chiding about how "good" they were for us could change that.

I was well into adulthood before my opinion took a turn. I was working in an upscale restaurant when I first tasted oven-roasted brussels sprouts. The chef had tossed them with a bit of olive oil and lots of chopped garlic, spreading them evenly on a baking sheet to roast. They came out of the oven lightly browned and slightly caramelized with no hint of the stink I remembered in prior encounters. He finished the simple dish with a light sprinkle of course sea salt, and offered a taste. They were delicious!

Over the years I've experimented with various ways to prepare this cruciferous veggie, but my favorite is still oven-roasting. They are a nutritional powerhouse; packed with vitamins A, C, and folic acid as well as a healthy dose of dietary fiber. They are also known to contain potent anticancer fighting chemicals.

In California, brussels sprouts are raised primarily in the coastal areas of San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties where fog and cool temperatures make growing conditions ideal. Choose small, compact specimens which will be sweeter and more tender than larger mature sprouts. Organic is best, since commercial growers tend to heavily spray their crops for aphid control. Aphids, it turns out, have no aversion whatsoever to brussels sprouts.

If you're still skeptical, try this recipe for simple roasted brussels sprouts, and keep an open mind. They may surprise you!

Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 pound fresh organic brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half
Organic extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 5 pressed garlic cloves
Coarse grind sea salt

Directions:

  • Coat the sides of a large bowl with a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Add pressed garlic and mix with oil using your hand, smearing the paste up the sides of the bowl.
  • Pour in prepared sprouts and toss with the olive oil/garlic mixture. Spread evenly in a single layer on a large baking sheet (I cover mine with foil for easy clean up).
  • Roast in oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and slightly caramelized. Finish with a grinding of course sea salt.

*Possible additions: chopped bacon, caramelized onions, sautéed shitake mushrooms, grated parmesan cheese.

For more farm to table news in the North Bay, visit Karen's website and "like"her on Facebook.

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Cindy Harris January 23, 2013 at 12:19 AM
I disliked brussel sprouts as a kid but now love them! :)
Tina McMillan January 23, 2013 at 05:31 AM
Brussels sprouts "What's New and Beneficial About Brussels Sprouts" http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=10 I know they are suppose to be incredibly good for you but I just can't eat them.
Karen Pavone January 23, 2013 at 07:21 PM
I'm right there with you Cindy. It's all in the preparation! My kids will eat them cooked this way only :>)
Karen Pavone January 23, 2013 at 07:22 PM
They are SO good for you Tina. Do try to reserve judgement until you've tried them roasted as I've described. You never know . . .
Tina McMillan January 23, 2013 at 08:24 PM
I know I need to give it a try. It looks like they beat Broccoli for health benefits. I found another article on a study done on berries, specifically blueberries and strawberries: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/strawberries-blueberries-boost-woman-heart-health-article-1.1240481 I don't know if frozen berries have the same effect but Costco sells bagged frozen berries. Add them to low fat Keifer, egg based protein powder and mix them in a blender and they make a delicious smoothie. The protein from the dairy and egg white and the taste of the frozen berries is more like having a treat than your daily vitamins. You can sip it slowly throughout the day and it gives you a boost without being too high in calories.
Karen Dionne January 24, 2013 at 04:06 PM
*More possible additions are: Pecans with Gorgonzola cheese - Yum!
Karen Dionne January 24, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Plus, I quarter them and this makes them easier to eat.
Lorie January 24, 2013 at 04:41 PM
I love them! Quarter them and quick saute them in some good olive oil, add kumquats and cranberries (dry or fresh) and pistachios. Invite me for lunch!
Karen Pavone January 24, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Thanks for the great tips Lorie!
Karen Pavone January 24, 2013 at 05:31 PM
ooooh that does sound yummy!
Karen Pavone January 24, 2013 at 05:33 PM
You just described one of my typical breakfasts Tina. Smoothies are a "go to" food for me in the morning. Nutritious and delicious! I love using a high quality yogurt, coconut water (high in potassium), with frozen organic berries and a tablespoon of flax seed. A great way to start the day :>)
Gabriela Shea February 02, 2013 at 02:18 AM
Hey Karen, My kids get to choose what they want me to make for their birthday dinner. Guess what my 14 year old daughter chose this week. Yup, brussel sprouts. Got to love her! When I make them, I first cook up a small container of diced pancetta. Then, I remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and I saute the brussel sprouts, that have been cut in half, face down in the remaining oil. Once they are carmelized, I turn off the heat and I add toasted pine nuts and goat cheese. No need to add any salt or pepper. It's her absolute favorite side dish.
Karen Pavone February 03, 2013 at 04:39 AM
Good for her Gabriela! And bravo to you for finding another delicious way to serve them. Tonight I shaved a bunch with a mandoline, tossing with olive oil and garlic. They come out browned and crunchy--kind of like kale chips. My kids scarfed them down. I will have to try your recipe next :>)
Sylvia Barry February 03, 2013 at 05:18 AM
I was shopping for vegetables for Thanksgiving dinner, this man was loading up Brussels Sprouts. He said there is just not enough of those for his family party. I asked him how to cook it and he pretty much said the same thing as your receipt above. I cooked that for the dinner and everybody loved it!

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