By Betty Gordon
© 2018 text and photos, except where noted. All rights reserved.
Oh, little layered veg of green,
On you I’ve lately been so keen,
I wasn’t always this excited,
But now my attitude’s been righted.
You’re sweet and nutty when gently cooked,
And I admit to being hooked
On your perfect tiny cabbage looks,
That send me to my recipe books.
That’s the way I started my ode to brussels sprouts for an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Food section in September 2009.
As a child, I didn’t like brussels sprouts, a not-uncommon reaction to this vegetable often improperly prepared.
In my house, they were overcooked until they reached an unattractive brown sogginess or were burned, devoid of their proper taste — quite an achievement for such a hearty vegetable — and gave off an equally unappealing smell.
(This is where the logical reaction is to wrinkle your nose and say “yuck.”)
I avoided them rigorously, until someone, many, many years later, roasted them in the oven with just salt, pepper and a bit of oil.
Once I decided to give them a second chance and try some interesting recipes, I found I quite liked them.
Brussels sprouts, rich in vitamins A and C, have a host of health benefits, not the least of which is being high in fiber and antioxidants. They also aid in digestion and may help lower cholesterol.
With Easter falling on April 1, and overlapping with Passover, consider putting brussels sprouts on your holiday table. You just might convert nonbelievers on to the brussels sprouts bandwagon.
Brussels sprouts are available year-round, but the price fluctuates. The ones I purchased last week were $2.99 a pound.
As always, the recipe is to my taste. Feel free to adapt it to your palate.
I added several of the ingredients I like most to take a simple recipe to the next level. The red of the diced tomatoes and bell peppers contrasts nicely with the green of the brussels sprouts. I serve this version over pasta.
Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Onions, Red Bell Peppers and Diced Tomatoes
This is really a stir-fry, cooked to the level of crunchiness you prefer. The brussels sprouts should be a vital bright green, which indicates they are retaining their nutrients.
The first few times I made the recipe, I followed it exactly — just brussels sprouts, olive oil, onion and salt and pepper.
Then I thought why not add a can of diced tomatoes, garlic, red bell pepper and dried red pepper flakes and make it more like a substantial sauce to serve atop pasta. That’s the recipe below.
If you’re feeding a crowd, double the recipe.
Hands on: 15 minutes
Total time: 25-30 minutes
18 to 24 fresh brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Vidalia or large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of dried red pepper flakes, optional
Rinse the brussels sprouts and trim off the bottoms. Cut the brussels sprouts through the core in half. If they are large, quarter them. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sprouts, onion, garlic, red bell pepper and sugar and stir-fry about 3 minutes. (Or, you can cover the pan and steam them for about 3 minutes. If you use this method, stir several times.)
Add the diced tomatoes and juice and continue stir-frying for 4-5 minutes or until they soften to your liking. Taste one to check for doneness. If still too crunchy, continue stir-frying 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir again. If you’d like a bit of kick, stir in a pinch or more of dried red pepper flakes.
Place any leftovers in a tightly covered glass or plastic dish. They will keep 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Adapted from “Hip Kosher: 175 Easy-to-Prepare Recipes for Today’s Kosher Cooks” by Ronnie Fein (Da Capo Press, 2008, $16.95, paperback)
Roasting brings out the sweetness and nuttiness of brussels sprouts. Tauton Press photo
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Dijon, Walnuts and Crisp Crumbs
Hands on: 20-25 minutes
Total time: About 1 hour
The roasted brussels sprouts pack plenty of texture and flavor without the topping. So if you want to save the fat and calories, just make the sprouts. This recipe can be easily halved.
Make-ahead tip: You can fry the crumb topping 2 hours beforehand.
For Passover, obviously the bread crumbs can’t be used (substitute matzo meal?), and you’ll have to find kosher-for-Passover mustard. There is such a product as “imitation Worcestershire sauce,” but I’ve never tried it. Maybe just wait and make this recipe after Passover?
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted lightly and crushed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided; more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, cut through the core into quarters
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Position racks in top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk 1/4 cup olive oil with mustard, Worcestershire sauce, caraway seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt and about 10 grinds of pepper. Add brussels sprouts and toss to thoroughly distribute the mustard mixture. Spread the sprouts in an even layer on the 2 baking sheets.
Roast until the cores of the sprouts are just barely tender and the leaves are browning and crisping a bit, 20 to 25 minutes (if your oven heat is uneven, rotate the pans midway through cooking).
While the sprouts are roasting, make the topping: Line a plate with two layers of paper towels. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil with butter (or margarine) in a medium (10-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. When butter has stopped foaming, add bread crumbs all at once. Toss to distribute fat. Reduce heat to medium, add walnuts and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring constantly until the crumbs are browned and slightly crisp and the nuts are golden, 4 to 6 minutes. (The crumbs will start to sound “scratchy” when they get crisp.) Dump bread crumb mixture onto paper towels to absorb excess fat.
Transfer brussels sprouts to a serving bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle crumbs over sprouts just before serving.
Adapted from Martha Holmberg’s recipe in “Fine Cooking Annual, Volume 3: A Year of Great Recipes, Tips & Techniques” (Taunton, 2008, $34.95)