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, grey, 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 lack-luster 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 grown primarily in the coastal areas of San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties where fog and cool temperatures make 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!
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
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.