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Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 12:01 am

How to fall in love with Brussels sprouts

An outcast earns its place at the table

Peter Glatz, vegetable samurai

 

In his book Dave Barry’s Bad Habits, humorist Dave Barry describes his mother’s approach to a balanced diet: “For every food she served you that you could stand to eat, she served you another kind of food you could not stand to eat…if she served us something we really liked, such as hamburgers, she made sure to serve us something we really loathed, such as Brussels sprouts. We kids feared many things in those days – werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday school – but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts.”

As a child, Brussels sprouts also topped my list of most hated foods. A 2015 Zagat survey found that barely half of Americans like Brussels sprouts. However after three decades of avoiding Brussels sprouts, I now have learned to love them and eagerly seek out the baseball bat-sized stalks that appear at farmers markets in the late fall.

It is my opinion that the widespread dislike of Brussels sprouts is a consequence of improper cooking technique; overcooked Brussels sprouts emit a sulfurous stink, have a barnyard-y flavor, and develop an unappealing gray color.

A member of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts resemble tiny heads of cabbage, growing in rows on long woody stalks. The sprouts generally range in size from 1/2 to 2 inches; the smaller sprouts are the most tender and sweet. Brussels sprouts are a cold-weather vegetable typically in season from late fall through the winter months.

Brussels sprouts are nutritious and versatile. They are a good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K and contain many antioxidants. The sulfur contained in Brussels sprouts also aids in detoxifying the body.

Brussels sprouts benefit from quick cooking to bring out their flavorful sweet notes. The leaves cook faster than the core; so even cooking can be achieved by cutting an “x” in the core base of the smaller sprouts. Larger sprouts can simply be cut in half. By cutting in half or cutting into the core, the undesirable sulfurous compounds are released.

The following is my simple go-to weeknight preparation for Brussels sprouts. The key to success is achieving a nice browning of the cut surfaces without overcooking to the point of mushiness.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic
4 servings
(From Mark Bittman in the New York Times)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to coat bottom of pan
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preparation
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Trim bottom of Brussels sprouts, and slice each in half, top to bottom. Heat oil in cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers; put sprouts cut side down in one layer in pan. Put in garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook, undisturbed, until sprouts begin to brown on bottom, and transfer to oven. Roast, shaking pan every 5 minutes, until sprouts are quite brown and tender, about 10 to 20 minutes.

Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in balsamic vinegar, and serve hot or warm.

My daughter (and fellow IT food writer) Ashley Meyer incorporates Brussels sprouts when she roasts vegetables.

Roasted Root Vegetables and Brussels Sprouts

Peel and cut vegetables (butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, beets, sweet potatoes, turnips) into ½-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and herbs (such as thyme or rosemary). Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

While roasting, trim Brussels sprouts and cut large sprouts into halves or quarters.

Toss sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper.

After vegetables have roasted for 20 minutes, add the Brussels sprouts to the veggies and roast an additional 15 minutes.

I visited David Chang’s tiny Momufuku Noodle Bar in New York City’s East Village when it first opened in 2004. The standout dish for me was the Brussels sprouts.

Momofuku’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce
Serves 4-6
Adapted from Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang and Peter Meehan

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • juice of ½ lime
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 bird’s eye chili, thinly chopped


Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  

Combine cilantro, mint, fish sauce, water, rice vinegar, lime juice, honey, garlic and chili and set aside.

Peel away any loose or discolored outer leaves, trim the end of the stems, and cut the sprouts in half.

To roast the Brussels sprouts: Toss them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread them on a baking sheet, cut sides down. Roast in the oven, checking for browning every 10-15 minutes, tossing them around with a spatula only once they start to brown nicely. The sprouts are ready when they are tender but not soft, with nice, dark brown color.

Serve warm or at room temperature. When ready to serve, divide the Brussels sprouts among four bowls (or serve it all out of one big bowl), top with the dressing and toss once or twice to coat.
Donna Hay is Australia’s Martha Stewart. In this recipe roasted leaves are used to make an interesting and fun salad.

Mozzarella Salad with Crispy Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4
Adapted from Donna Hay’s The New Easy

For the salad:

  • 2 fresh mozzarellas, thickly sliced
  • 3 green tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon small oregano leaves
  • 1⁄4 cup shredded mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the crispy Brussels sprouts:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Trim the stalk of the sprouts with a paring knife and separate the leaves.

Place in a bowl with the oil and salt and toss to combine.

Divide between two baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Divide the mozzarella between plates. Combine the tomatoes, oregano, mint, onion, vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper and spoon over the mozzarella.

Top with the crispy Brussels sprouts and extra mint leaves to serve.

Contact Peter Glatz at docglatz@gmail.com.

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