Oh the poor Brussels Sprout it is either beloved or abhorred, I’m not entirely certain there is a middle ground for this brassica, the step-child in the family of cabbages. It seems this vegetable has unfortunately been given an unfair stereotype. I’m sure I’m not the only one who grew up abhorring this poor vegetable, the lowly sprout has had a hard going. I remember as a child having this side dish of mushy overcooked sickly gray-green vegetables placed before me. It was not helped served next to meat of some type that Grandma had cooked until it resembled an old shoe. And then of course there is the smell, which unfortunately cannot be helped. A combination that would in most cases cause anyone to lose all hope in this vegetable. But all cannot be blamed upon this poor unfortunate sprout. It did not ask to be boiled to death or blanketed in some imitation cheese sauce to hide the fact it was not all that lovely to look at, no, we mustn’t blame the sprout.
I’m not exactly sure when I decided to give this vegetable another chance to redeem itself. For years the only time I ever came across these miniature cabbages was when I was at the market in the frozen section, scanning the shelves for either peas or corn, and then catching a glimpse of the square package of sprouts that tried to lure me in with a picture of a giant green man. I wasn't convinced.
Some years later when I began shopping at farmer’s markets I remember coming across an amazing sight. A huge pile of green stalks some of which were probably three feet or longer covered in lovely edible green buds. I thought they were so naturally beautiful, that in my haste I bought a stalk and proudly carried it home, thinking that somehow I could transform this delightful stalk into something delicious.
Arriving home so excited with my purchase I came against fierce resistance. I tried to share all of the reasons why giving this vegetable another try was a good idea, but to no avail, no, the prejudice was too strong. So in the years following I would have to wait for opportunities when no one was home to begin trying new ways in preparing the sprouts. I found roasting to be one of my favorite ways to enjoy the sprouts, it seemed to tame the bitterness. I loved the caramelized brown outer leaves that were slightly crispy and when drizzled with some balsamic vinegar transformed these lowly little orbs into something amazing, not unlike what the fairy godmother did for Cinderella.
If you want to avoid the smell all together (which is understandable) serving brussels raw is quite the revelation. Try them with a dressing of whole-grain mustard, lemon zest, and walnut oil. They work if they are shredded finely and seem to like a good half hour bathing in their dressing. Adding a spoonful of crème fraiche or thick yogurt right before serving is a nice touch.
I have also found that butter, parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, bacon, pistachios, pine nuts, mustard, lemon or brown sugar are all flattering touches that pair nicely with these beauties.
It has taken many years for me to finally accept this vegetable as one of my own, to love it for what it is and all it has to offer, perhaps this will be the nudge you need to embrace it as well. -s