If you put a gun to my head (please don’t) and forced me to name my favorite green vegetable, it would have to be Brussels sprouts. Oh how I adore those little green globes of goodness! Which is kind of crazy, really, because I did not even taste a single Brussels sprout until I was over the age of thirty…or maybe that partly explains why I love them so much.
Growing up, Brussels sprouts were never cooked or served in my house. So I was spared the oft reported childhood horror of being forced to choke down mushy, bitter, sulfurous green spheres. For me, Brussels sprouts were nothing more than a punchline to a joke that I didn’t quite understand. I simply knew that Brussels sprouts = yucky because everyone told me that was the case.
Then, with absolutely no provocation, my roommate’s boyfriend brought over a stalk of fresh sprouts purchased from a roadside produce stand. He proudly proclaimed his intention to amaze us with his incredible vegetable roasting skills. I was intrigued, having never met any human being who professed love for this (reportedly) disgusting vegetable. My roommate was horrified (having once been one of those poor, tortured children who was forced to choke them down before being allowed to leave the dinner table) but she tried to hide it.
I won’t say it was LOVE at first bite (I think he needed a higher temp and/or longer roasting time), but I knew immediately that these little tiny baby cabbages held big potential to be a delicious new addition to my life. Over the years, I have developed two signature dishes that have successfully converted sprout haters into enthusiasts: (1) Sautéed Brussels Sprouts and Leeks & (2) Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots in Balsamic Glaze.
I’d love to share the first recipe with you, but I don’t really have a recipe. It’s one of those dishes I always make up as I go along. First I roast whole, fresh sprouts until they are just slightly golden (but still pretty crisp) and let them cool. Then I slice them very thin. Next, I sauté thinly sliced leeks in EVOO until they are starting to soften. Then I add the sliced sprouts, more EVOO, and a blob (1 Tb?) of butter and continue to sauté, adding splashes of white wine every now and then. Somewhere along the way, I season with a pinch of nutmeg, salt, pepper and whatever else I have on hand (thyme, sage, etc). When the sprouts look and smell done, I serve it up. (Seriously, that’s the best I can do to explain it.)
Here’s my second, more traditional dish:
(I ate this whole bowl all by myself. Shameful, but true!)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots in Balsamic Glaze
- 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut into quarters (or into halves if they are very small)
- 2 Tbsp EVOO
- Salt & pepper
- 3 large shallots, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- Feta cheese crumbles (about 1 Tbsp)
Preheat oven to 450. Toss sprouts and shallots with EVOO, spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes (or to taste). Watch those shallots, they may need to be removed at 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium high heat, reduce the balsamic vinegar by half. When the veggies are finished roasting, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss with the balsamic reduction and top with the feta.
Of course, my way of cooking Brussels sprouts might not meet with everyone’s approval. So here’s some fantastic recipes for further exploration: