Brussels Sprouts

May 2, 2013

DM_Brussels Sprouts

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Gorgeous brussels sprouts on the stalk from PKNewby

Do you have a favorite vegetable? An antioxidant-rich green you’re near-evangelical about? A vitamin-packed food you cannot feed your family enough? One maybe they’re half sick of, but they know better than to mention it because of the inevitable lecture on the awesomeness of this vegetable and your belief that clearly you’ve failed them as wife, mother, friend, and companion simply because they don’t understand the glory that is this versatile, vaulted vegetable?

I have one of those: the brussels sprout.

If you have eaten even one meal in our house, chances are I’ve served it to you. If we’ve just met and are still exchanging pleasantries and clarifying how to pronounce each other’s names, chances are I’ve already mentioned it. If we’re old friends (and by now, we are, right?), it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ve already told you at least eighty times that the brussels sprout is the single most awesome vegetable in existence.

With little exaggeration.

Consider the brussels sprout: doesn’t it have a fabulous name? Did the first little brussels sprout come from brussels? Has it traveled all over the world on a fabulous Eurorail trip and picked up its sophisticated taste and fancy multi-layeredness in the most foodie-famous hot spots in Europe? Has it studied green perfection under its older sibling, the cabbage, and perfect roundness from the architectural glories all over the Old Continent? Does it wear a little beret and tie its scarf just so in this vegetable-fantasy cartoon? Obviously, the brussels sprout is multi-lingual. Any vegetable this sophisticated would have to be.

In actuality, brussels sprouts made their first appearance in America thanks to none other than Thomas Jefferson, which means it’s not only a great vegetable that could star in its own foodie fairytale, it’s also an American history lesson.

And a science lesson! Have you ever seen how brussels sprouts grow? I wasn’t in on this mystery for years, so if you’re already in the know, forgive me, but this is too cool not to share. After domestic eons of buying them pre-shucked and pretty in the produce section, my mother came home one day with what I could only describe as a magical wand of vegetableness: brussels still on the stalk. It’s thick and heavy and comes right out of the ground like a stepladder of sprouts.

Now, Bill and I grow them against the fence in our backyard. They’re a hard vegetable that even I am incapable of killing (we have a moderately successful edible garden in our back yard, and every item in it is a testimony to hardy, hard-to-kill plants when I’m involved) and they add the most beautiful green trim to the yard as they grow. And they hang around all summer – you don’t harvest them until after the first frost. I’m admittedly a little sad to pick them when the time comes, just because they’re so cute and green out there, but they are so delicious on my plate.

The best thing about the brussels sprout is how hands-down usable it is. It’s bright and sharp when boiled, bitter enough to offset even the richest meal. It’s sweet when roasted and so easy-going and comforting you almost want to make mac-and-cheese just to go with it and curl up by the fire with a good book. It can be crunchy or it can be soft, it can be loud or quiet. It can be dressed up or served simply. Basically, it’s your foodie best-friend: whatever you need it to do, it will do, and it will do it with flying (and ardently green) colors.

I realize not everyone likes to wax poetic about their favorite vegetable, but that’s just because they haven’t found the right brussels sprouts recipe yet. Brussels are like books: when you say you don’t like them, it’s just because you haven’t found the right one yet. And as a brussels sprout evangelist, it has been my mission in life to make sure everyone finds their brussels sprout recipe.

I like to serve mine boiled and tossed with a mustard-caper butter, a recipe I gleaned from Deborah Madison’s incredible ode to farmers’ markets, Local Flavors. One of my good friends lives down the street from a resto in New York that serves them fried with a chili caramel glaze. If that doesn’t get you drooling, consider the sweet and garlicky “green candy” from Boston’s Myers + Chang. Momofuku Ssam Bar serves theirs boiled or roasted with a spicy mint sauce. They are great in a slaw with hazelnuts and pomegranates and delicious with red quinoa, almonds, and apricots. They’re also pretty perfect popped straight out of the oven and tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.

And for the doubting Thomas, there’s always the old stand-by: brussels sprouts with bacon. That one is guaranteed to be a hit even with the most anti-vegetable eater at your table. After all, there’s bacon in there.

Plus, brussels sprouts are incredibly easy to get on the table. Rumor even has it that the best brussels sprouts to cook with at home are actually the ones in the frozen food section. (Thank you, Matthew Amster-Burton for taking this from rumor to tried-and-true tip!) That means that not only are they perfectly delicious, they’re virtually season proof. And a great thing to stock up the next time you’re at the store.

Tell me: What’s your favorite thing to do with this littlest cabbage, or, shall we say, the petit chou chou? It’s the only vegetable I can think of that makes a fantastic dinner, side for dinner, leftover breakfast, and pet name. Even though technically there’s another french name for brussels and petit chou chou just means little cabbage, we all know that the best little cabbage around is the brussels sprout. I’m not sure you could ask for a better veggie endorsement than that.

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

1 redpeeptoepumps May 2, 2013 at 8:50 am

My mum also adores brussel sprouts, and I’ve learned to love them as an adult. By far my favorite recipe is Smitten Kitchen’s winter panzanella, which is a lot of work, but always worth it: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2006/12/holding-the-gray-salt/

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2 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 2, 2013 at 8:56 am

holy amazing, that looks DELICIOUS! I can’t believe I haven’t made that yet!

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3 Sarah May 2, 2013 at 9:09 am

Great fall salad: Take the freshest sprouts and slice them very thin (food processor makes this a snap). Toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and some ricotta salata or grated asiago. Throw some toasted walnuts or hazelnuts on the top. Shockingly simple and good.

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4 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 2, 2013 at 9:18 am

YUM. Bookmarking this one, too. Thank you, Sarah!

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5 Nicki May 2, 2013 at 9:18 am

My absolute favorite veggie. I always order brussels sprouts if a restaurant puts them on the menu. My family is less thrilled about them, but I don’t care. If they are in season, I’m eating them. Glad to know someone else is as enamored.

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6 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 2, 2013 at 9:22 am

Devoted fan club, that’s for sure.

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7 Jessie May 2, 2013 at 9:20 am

I couldn’t agree more! A few more links:
This recipe (similar to the salad Sarah mentions above) is fabulous. I second hazelnuts or marcona almonds. http://food52.com/recipes/7650-shaved-brussels-sprout-salad-with-red-onion-lemon-and-pecorino

This recipe from Deborah Madison (via Sprouted Kitchen) mixes the spouts with kale, soba noodles, and a sesame dressing for a more Japanese taste: http://www.sproutedkitchen.com/home/2013/2/19/kale-slivered-brussels-sprout-soba-noodles.html

And finally, Ken Rivard and Jody Adams (of Cambridge’s Rialto and Boston’s Trade) have a lovely Vietnamese preparation: http://thegarumfactory.net/2012/11/16/seared-brussels-sprouts-with-vietnamese-dipping-sauce/.

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8 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 2, 2013 at 9:23 am

That DM recipe is DELICIOUS. I can’t wait to try the others!

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9 PARIS BEE kids blog May 2, 2013 at 9:28 am

My very favourite vegetable! I hope that my dear daughter will like it too!!

xoxo PARIS BEE kids blog

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10 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm

We are doing the same thing – crossing fingers, and eating as much as we can in utero! I keep reading that babies don’t like it in breast milk… I’m hoping that maybe isn’t true for us? Goodluck getting your daughter on board! xo

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11 Tara Jane May 2, 2013 at 11:27 am

OK, I am planting some this year! Thanks for the inspiration.

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12 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Hooray!

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13 Maria B May 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Roasted with olive oil, S&P….vegetable perfection. *swoon*

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14 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Double swoon to that :)

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15 Joy | Frock Files May 2, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Would you believe that I only had brussels sprouts for the first time last month? Which is a little ironic in this context because my mom has always called me mon petit chou chou. True story!

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16 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 2, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Your mom was a smart lady! Did you like them?

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17 Jodi May 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Wow. I have never heard someone express such undying love for brussel sprouts. I’m definitely one of those people that just hasn’t found the right recipe yet. Those and Kale- my two best vegetable frenemies.

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18 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm

No! Not kale, too! Kale is super easy. Make it like you’d make spinach – just cook it a bit longer. For me it’s chard – no matter what I do, it tastes like a swimming pool. (total failure.)

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19 Anna May 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Oh, well then you need Jack Bishop’s recipe for lemony chard (from “Vegetables Every Day”: Chop or tear the leaves into bite-size pieces (save the stems for some other recipe), wash and put in a large heavy pot or dutch oven still wet from the washing; cook covered over medium-high heat until it’s all wilted (around 10 minutes), then remove lid and cook until liquid is gone (around 10 minutes more). Chill, dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, then serve. Totally awesome!

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20 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:31 am

Okay, I am going to try this this weekend. I am eager to make chard my friend. Mostly because avoiding it at restaurants (which I now do because I taste the swimming pool I manage to make of it) is getting tiresome.

Plus I LOVE lemon anything… so thank you for the recommendation! Fingers crossed!

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21 Val May 2, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Woohoo! Now I have lots of new brussel sprout recipes to swoon to. My whole family hearts brussel sprouts. Our current favorite way to enjoy them is just roasted with Kerrygold butter & SP. My 5 year old made me smile the other day — I’d made brussel sprouts for myself, and he begged for some, saying “brussel sprouts are my FAVORITE!” Growing up, my family never ate them, but somehow I’ve managed to raise 6 kids who adore sprouts as much as my husband and I do.

As an aside, it was so much fun to read about your passion for these tasty little morsels. Such delightfully fun writing!

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22 Val May 2, 2013 at 5:22 pm

and oh my goodness! I totally left the “s” off every reference to my favorite veggie. My fingers are having one of those days :)

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23 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:39 am

i say “brussel sprouts” in real life. it took a lot to remember to type “brussels” every single time : )

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24 Becky May 2, 2013 at 6:11 pm

I want to like brussel sprouts, I really really do. I love cabbage and I enjoy literally every other veggie I’ve tried. And they’re so cute, and there are so many intriguing recipes. But they just taste so unbearably bitter to me!
I kept trying different recipes with no luck, but gave up after reading that researchers now think some people have a gene that makes them “super tasters” for bitter flavors, and the people with that gene don’t like Brussel sprouts because they taste so much more of the bitterness than the rest of the world. Sigh.
On the plus side, that same gene also helps fight some kinds of infection, so at least there’s that. :)
Hard to choose a favorite veggie, but I’ve been on an edamame kick lately. Kale chips are hard to beat. Except by asparagus. And green beans. Or artichokes! Yep, I think artichokes might be my favorite.

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25 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:39 am

ARTICHOKES!!! shouldn’t they be their own food group altogether? there was a super fascinating article on supertasters in the new yorker a few years ago. let me see if i can find a link.

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26 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

okay, no such luck. but it’s the nov 20 2009 issue (around there – that weekish) so if you’re so inclined, mosey over to the public library and see if they can pull it up for you – it was a GREAT read, and then you can have the awesome knowledge that the new yorker basically wrote about you :)

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27 Meagan May 2, 2013 at 9:23 pm

They are also my favorite, but only a recent discovery for me. We roast them with olive oil and salt and pepper until they’re a bit crunchy… I could make a whole meal of them easily.

I have not however found them easy to grow. We tried last year and the entire crop was decimated by some kind of fungus. I mean they grew tall enough, but gross looking from the start. I am not a gardener, so I haven’t got a clue what to do about it aside from applying buckets full of scary poisons. We’re going to skip them this year, and load up on the crops that we had more success with and saved us the most money (peppers, tomatoes peas and broccoli). We don’t have a ton of garden space, so we need to make the most of it.

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28 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:43 am

that’s so bizarre. did you call one of your local master gardeners? (usually a good place to start is through the local university.) how completely bizarre! ours grow while i completely forget about them and neglect them. if you share some broccoli with us, i’ll share some brussels with you!

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29 Meg May 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm

I love roasted brussels sprouts! I brush them with olive oil, sprinkle some garlic and parmesan cheese and roast them in the oven! Delicious. You can grill it all on its own or add salmon if you’re feeling hungry!

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30 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:44 am

YUM YUM YUM! I can’t wait to have brussels from the grill! If only my grillmaster would get home from Afghanistan soon! I’ll suggest the salmon to him… I am (very sadly) allergic. But I do like my brussels with some lemon roasted chicken…. also pretty great!

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31 Design Mom May 3, 2013 at 1:17 am

Loved this post, Raleigh-Elizabeth! My favorite line is:

“If we’ve just met and are still exchanging pleasantries and clarifying how to pronounce each other’s names, chances are I’ve already mentioned it.”

Hah!

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32 Mary May 3, 2013 at 4:59 am

Roasted and drizzled with just a little pure maple syrup.

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33 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:44 am

yes! yum!

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34 Fleur May 3, 2013 at 5:52 am

Brussels sprouts get a bit of a b ad rap in the UK and aren’t very popular here in Australia where I live now. But I love them!
Thanks for the tip re frozen ones, will have to check if you can buy them frozen here.

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35 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:45 am

Let us know if they come frozen in Australia… and if they are any good frozen there! The ones from our local Whole Foods are terrific… and store-brand!

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36 Jillian L May 3, 2013 at 6:16 am

Love brussels sprouts!! And I am currently obsessed with the brand Organic Girl’s baby kale salad. SO GOOD!!

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37 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:45 am

THAT SALAD IS FANTASTIC. ALL CAPS. I completely, completely agree.

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38 Kate S May 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

I am a new convert to the glorious sprout. They are now an absolute favorite. My way is sautéed with olive oil, salt, pepper, sliced onion, basalmic vinegar, a touch of maple syrup and crumbled blue cheese. It’s like I have died and gone to heaven!

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39 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:46 am

you had me with “sliced onion.”

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40 Amy May 3, 2013 at 10:00 am

I love Brussels sprouts
I give them a good sauté, not being afraid to get them nice and browned. When they’re almost done, I toss in some garlic. And then I eat them as fast as I can shovel them into my mouth!

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41 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:46 am

hahahhahahhahaha. We are birds of a feather!

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42 Kristen E May 3, 2013 at 10:44 am

I LOVE brussels sprouts! Green beans are my favorite favorite, but brussels sprouts are definitely in the top 5. I make them a lot of different ways, but currently, I like slicing them thin, sauteeing them with some thinly sliced leeks, and cooking some wild rice with dried mushrooms to mix in with the sprouts. It’s just so complex and wonderful!

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43 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 3, 2013 at 11:48 am

Okay, I’ll confess: my absolute favorite rot-in-front-of-the-telly snack is a big mixing bowl of green beens cooked super quickly with garlic and hot red pepper. And then I usually throw some parm on top. YUM. I am going to try your leek and mushroom recipe… it sounds like heaven on a plate to me!

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44 Amy3 May 3, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Love!!! Brussels are my absolute fave. I do Mark Bittman’s recipe for glazed Brussels sprouts. Delicious! I could eat pounds.

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45 Teresa May 3, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Ok, I never even liked brussels sprouts until my neighbor made them for me and now I’m obsessed.

I’m a dump and hope kind of cook but you really can’t screw this up, you simply HAVE to try it. They are amazing.

BEST BRUSSELS EVER (don’t tell, it’s a secret)
rinse and quarter your sprouts and dump them all in a big bowl (see, dump and hope, like my mother)

melt about 3-4 tbsp of butter and pour over them, mix until coated

dump in a couple heaping spoons of mayo, mix until coated

pour in about 2 tbsp of lemon or lime juice, mix until coated

sprinkle in about 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese that comes in a shaker (ya, I know), mix until coated

spread in a 9X13 baking dish and cook at 375

I don’t know how long, I just keep watching them and mixing them around in the pan every 10-15 min (maybe 45 min?)

take them out when you have a bunch of brown crispy ones that are so good you will burn your mouth trying to eat them

go make them…now…they are amazing

I really need to figure out a recipe for this…

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46 Sarah Reaves May 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm

I’m growing brussell sprouts for the first time right now!!! I can’t wait until they are ready to harvest!

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