Brussels Sprouts

Thanks to extensive selective breeding in 13th century Belgium we now have the pleasure of savoring the Brussels Sprout. They resemble tiny cabbages (as a child, I disdainfully thought of them as Martian heads) and are a fantastic mutant of the cabbage family. However, the two differ in their growth habit.

Cabbages grow fairly low to the ground and form a single dense head in the center of a lush rosette of leaves. Once the main head is harvested, if one is patient, the plant will regrow with four or five mini cabbages at the base of the plant. This isn’t a common sight because most farmers and gardeners pull up the stump once the cabbage head is harvested. This is where those Belgian gardeners of the Middle Ages began their experiment.

Brussels Sprout plants start out in life looking just like a cabbage plant. But after two or three months of growth, the main stalk begins to elongate. Instead of forming a tight head, all of those leaves instead begin to stretch out along the lengthening stalk, until at four or five months of age, the plant resembles a miniature prehistoric tree, rather than a cabbage. If one looks closely beneath each leaf, a tiny bud can be seen—this bud will become a sweet sprout. After another month or two (by now it’s been nearly half a year) the three-foot stalk is crowded with tiny cabbages just begging to be nibbled on (and just like cabbages, sprouts come in purple as well as green).

At this point I have to be honest—I have hated Brussels Sprouts for as long as Ican remember. In the 1970’s and 80’s, the only sprouts found in the supermarket were in the 10-ounce frozen cube form. They were squishy, mushy, and they tasted worse than burned cabbage. Brussels Sprouts and Squash were the only foods I remember absolutely detesting as a child.

But, things change. Several years ago as I was looking through seed catalogs, I started to wonder if I had gotten off on the wrong foot with these sprouts. Maybe if they were grown and harvested properly, I would love them as much as I learned to love kale, beets, and winter squash! So Ibegan a quest to grow them. Sometimes Mike thinks I’m crazy—it took me three years, but I finally figured out the timing with this long-season crop. They need to be seeded in April in the greenhouse, planted outside in June or July, then they need to grow slowly. And they absolutely must NOT be harvested before winter frosts have chilled them thoroughly and slowly.

For all this cold weather actually sweetens the sprouts. And I must say, they are DELICIOUS! We have been known to make a meal of just Brussels Sprouts and rice—and Mike is a carnivore. Imean, we can each eat an entire stalk of sprouts in one meal. So, I’m a convert, and I hope you will be too.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS CARBONARA

3/4 pound Brussels Sprouts
1 tbsp. Butter
1 tsp. Olive Oil
1/2 pound Spaghetti Noodles
2 Large Egg Yolks
1/2 cup Cream
Cayenne Pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup Chopped Cooked Bacon (if desired)
2 cups Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

1. Half (or quarter, if large) the Brussels Sprouts.

2. Blanch in boiling salted water for 4 minutes and drain.

3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add butter and olive oil, swirl to melt, and add the blanched sprouts.

4. Season with salt and toss to coat with the butter and oil. Turn the sprouts cut-side down, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 6 to 8 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, or until browned on all sides.

5. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package instructions, reserving 1 cup pasta water as the spaghetti cooks

6. In a serving bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cream, and a pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste) to blend, then add the hot pasta, bacon (if desired), and as much reserved water as necessary to coat the noodles with the cream. Add Parmesan cheese and the sprouts, and toss to mix. Serves 2-4.

Recipe courtesy of Renee Erickson, from “A Boat, A Walrus, and A Walrus”.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH WALNUT OIL

1 tbsp. Butter
1 1/2 tbsp. Walnut Oil (or other nut oil)
2 tbsp. chopped Italian Parsley
2 tbsp. thinly sliced Chives or Scallions
1 pound Small Brussels Sprouts
Salt and Ground Black Pepper

1. Put butter, walnut oil, parsley and chives in a serving bowl and set aside.

2. Trim Brussels sprout ends. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add sprouts and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and return to pot over low heat. Cook briefly, shaking the pot, until any water has evaporated.

3. Transfer sprouts to the serving bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Toss until butter melts and seasonings evenly coat the sprouts.

SAUTEÉD BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Fresh Brussels Sprouts
Olive Oil or Unsalted butter
Chicken or Vegetable Stock
Fresh or Dried Thyme Leaves
Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper

1. Slice the sprouts thin, about 1/8-inch thick. Heat a sauté pan, add a small amount of olive oil or unsalted butter, and sauté the sprouts for a few minutes. Add about 1/4 inch of stock to the pan and continue cooking until tender. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Continue to cook until you end with an emulsified liquid that just coats the sprouts.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS LEAVES WITH BACON

Fresh Brussels Sprouts
Diced Onion
Bacon, or Pancetta, diced (or substitute capers or another salty addition)
White Wine
Chicken or Vegetable Stock
Salt and Pepper

1. Cut out the stems of the Brussels sprouts and separate the sprouts into leaves. Thinly slice the tightly compact centers.

2. Sauté some diced onion and pancetta or bacon in olive oil until softened. Add the sprout leaves, season with salt, and moisten with a little white wine and water or stock. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until just tender. Taste for seasoning, grind black pepper over, and serve.

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2 responses to “Brussels Sprouts

  1. >Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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