Roasted brussels sprouts
I tend to wax poetic about vegetables, much to the laughter of my family and friends. I can’t help it – vegetables excite me. Most of the time people understand well enough: it’s easy to get excited over a ripe summer tomato, or a silky roasted squash, or some snappy green beans.
Then there are Brussels sprouts.
Many people shudder and recoil – ‘but they stink!’ my little sister tells me emphatically. What is it about these knobby, bulbous little things that scare people so? Perhaps the ill preparation of Thanksgiving dinners past, where they sat, sad and overcooked, playing second fiddle to the sweet potato casserole? Or maybe it’s the scary out-of-season specimens that sit untouched in the grocery store, the size of children’s fists and tasting of murky water. Such misrepresentation.
Boy, do I ever love Brussels sprouts. Part of the brassica family, they first were recorded in Europe in the late 1500s. The humble little orb is one of the few vegetables that endures through the cold winter months, gracing our plates with green in the cold of December, when lettuce is hydroponic and spinach is imported from far away. They taste of health – both sweet and savoury, full of fibre, vitamins C and D and folate.
When buying them, look for sprouts no larger than a small walnut, which are sweeter and younger, and remove any yellowed or bruised leaves (I usually just pluck off the first layer). They are pretty hardy, so can be stored in the crisper for a week or so before they turn.
My favourite preparation renders delicious, slightly nutty sprouts. Any unpleasant smell is due to overcooking the sprouts, which releases sulphur compounds, so I shy away from boiling. Instead, I slice the trimmed, clean sprouts in half, toss with sea salt, coarse black pepper, and enough olive oil to coat. I grate over a little fresh nutmeg (not too much, but it does something magical to them!) and roast on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for about 12 minutes at 350 degrees F, tossing halfway. The finished sprouts should be crisped golden at the edges, tender in the middle, and smell toasty and savoury. They’re great right out of the oven, at room temperature, or straight from the fridge for lunch the next day.
Tell me, do you love ‘em or hate ‘em? How do you prepare your little cabbages? If you aren’t a fan, please roast some up fresh from the market for me … and say they aren’t heavenly.