Do you remember when you were a little kid, and you would absolutely refuse to eat some food, no matter how good it was for you? Now, imagine years passing, you being an adult, and you still refusing to try something new because you didn’t like it 20 years ago. Sounds silly, right?
What if that food were a nutritional superstar, teeming with more vitamin C than an orange, packed with fiber, and dripping with heart-protecting and cancer-defying compounds? Would you still refuse to try it, knowing now how fragile life is and how important good nutrition is to your health?
And the Mystery Veg Is . . .
Yes, I’m talking about Brussels sprouts! Over the years, I’ve wanted to like them, have tried them at various points, and have turned away at the stinky smell and bitter taste that hit me about 3 chews in. They are beguiling to behold—tiny baby cabbages! Almost everything is cuter when tiny J And the lovely layers when you slice them open—much more interesting to behold than, say, a potato. Turns out, potatoes and Brussels sprouts are fantastic together!
Turn of the Tide
Crazy-good Brussels sprouts at Oak (Dallas, TX)
But my new love affair with these sprouts began a few years ago when I tried them at Oak, the delicious Dallas restaurant (http://oakdallas.com/). When the waiter told me that people came from miles around for Oak’s Brussels sprouts, I figured I’d give them a go. I almost lost my mind, they were so good! Quartered, tossed with olive oil, garlic, sea salt, and Panko bread crumbs, and roasted until gorgeous golden brown with crispy leaves outside. I actually still dream about them. Turns out, anytime you get olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar near a Brussels sprout, you’re going to have a good time!
Brussels sprouts are members of the Brassica family, which includes such stellar greens as broccoli, kale, collard greens, and cabbage. Considering its family members, you can imagine the health benefits that these little beauties provide. They are jammed full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals that lower cholesterol, destroy free radicals, and protect against cancer of all types. They are one of the vegetable kingdom’s best sources of vitamin K, which helps in blood clotting as well as bone building. They are also packed with vitamin A (healthy mucus membranes and vision), vitamin E (treating and preventing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer), magnesium, calcium, potassium—the list goes on!
But What About the Stink?
Happily, Brussels sprouts are full of fiber and extremely low on the GI index, making them ideal companions in your weight-loss efforts. They help fill you up without filling you out. But what about the stinky nature of these sprouts (both for them and for you)? They get their particular smell from their sulphur-containing compounds, the fragrance of which is amplified by boiling. To avoid filling your house with that pungent scent as well as cooking away all the nutrients, try steaming or roasting them. As for you and the gas that sometimes accompanies cruciferous veggies like sprouts and broccoli—I’ve found that the more regularly you eat these high-fiber foods, the more adept your body becomes at digesting them efficiently. This goes for beans too.
How to Prepare
The best way to prepare Brussels sprouts while preserving all the good stuff inside is to steam them, but roasting them is also a delicious option.
To steam: Half and/or quarter them lengthwise. Try to make the pieces similar so they cook at the same time. Add an inch or so of water to a pot, cover, and wait for water to boil. When water boils, add a steamer basket full of Brussels sprouts and cover. For halved sprouts, steam about 6 mins. For quartered sprouts, steam about 5 min.
To roast: Heat your oven to about 350-400 degrees. Half and/or quarter them lengthwise. Try to make the pieces similar so they cook at the same time. Toss with some olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, some balsamic (if you like), and even a dash of red pepper flakes. Arrange on a baking sheet with cut sides up, and cook for 30-40 minutes, until they are deep golden brown. Yum!
I found the following recipe and yummy variations on the Whole Foods website (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/oven-roasted-brussels-sprouts). I can’t wait to try them!
Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss Brussels sprouts with oil, salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, stirring once or twice, until deep golden brown, crisp outside and tender inside, 30 to 35 minutes. The leaves that are loose will be especially brown and crispy. Transfer to a bowl and serve.
Rosemary Parmesan Brussels Sprouts Add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary to Brussels sprouts before roasting. During the last 5 minutes of roasting, add 1/4 cup pine nuts. Stir well and continue roasting until Brussels sprouts are tender. Before serving, toss with 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese.
Cranberry Pecan Brussels Sprouts During the last 5 minutes of roasting, add 1 cup dried cranberries and 1/4 cup pecan pieces. Stir well and continue roasting until Brussels sprouts are tender.
Brussels Sprouts and Kale Salad After roasting, allow Brussels sprouts to cool to room temperature. Toss with 4 cups baby kale mix, 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese and 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette.
I hope you will give Brussels sprouts (or any long-despised food from childhood) a chance. You never know—they may just become one of your very favorites!
Happy and healthy adventuring,