I gagged on Brussels sprouts. Just gagged on them when I was a kid. I thought I would love them right about the time pigs sprouted wings. So be on the lookout. Because I do love them now.
My little sister, on the other hand, loved them. Our mom used to buy food for the four of us by the truckload, and that included frozen packages of Brussels sprouts, a veggie my father would tolerate, she an my sister loved, and the rest of us tried to slip to the dogs, who would never touch them.
Mom heated them through, buttered and salted them, and served them up with meals that always offered at least three colors on the plate.
If the dogs won’t eat them, I reasoned. There must be something very wrong.
But no sprouts, no dessert, and so I tried to chew and swallow them, and they went down fighting.
I can’t explain why I love them so much now, though I still can’t eat them whole, because of that vivid memory, but I have three favorite ways to eat my sprouts and lots of reasons why I should. Mostly, it counts as one of your cruciferous veggies with cabbage and broccoli and cauliflower, that can help you ward off certain cancers. Three or four servings of this family of veggies each week is a great goal.
As with most vegetables, I prefer sprouts prepared simply. So my favorite way at the moment is to slice them up into thin rounds and lightly saut‚ them with one smashed clove of garlic in olive oil, a little salt and white pepper. Within 5 minutes they’re done. I just love preparing them this way and watching them go from their pale cabbagy color to the most vivid green in the house. I’m extremely careful not to overcook them, preferring them to crunch a little. They give a nutty, complex, earthy flavor cooked this way that I don’t remember at all from my childhood.
A plateful of these alone is great. Serving as a bed under roast chicken or pork or alongside a pot roast is perfect.
When I’m serving sprouts to company, I usually make a little extra effort, and peel rather than slice the leaves. By cutting off the base, I can peel the leaves off, making a huge pile of sprout leaves that I saut‚ quickly in a wok in olive or grape nut or peanut oil. The peeling takes time and can be done well ahead of cooking. But the result, for its beauty, is well worth it. With slivered almonds and skinny ribbons of carrot, these company sprouts are the best thing on the table, I’m afraid. They’ll eclipse your main dish.
I like the whole leaves in chicken soup, too. So pretty. I add them at the end of cooking so they stay as firm and green as they can for as long as they can.
If you’re not scared of saturated fat, try substituting sliced sprouts for potatoes in your favorite gratin recipe. You won’t be sorry. And I think neither will my family this Thanksgiving.
Or eat them the way my sis still likes them, as whole little cabbages. Tear away any damaged outer leaves, trim the stem, cut an X about ¬ inch into the stem (so they cook evenly), and steam or boil your sprouts until they are just fork tender. Don’t overdo them. Toss them in a little oil to keep them from drying out or eat them before they do. In a bowl. They tend to roll.
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