Friday, November 7, 2014

Featured Vegetable: Brussels Sprouts

By Andrea Yoder

“Brussels sprouts are the only vegetable I cannot eat unless the weather is cold. No frost, no sprouts. I am not alone…Frost makes the sprout...Eaten at the wrong time of year, cooked too long or served with too much else on the plate, the sprout is hard going.” –Nigel Slater in Tender
Brussels sprouts full of sweet flavor in cold weather!
Sprouts spiral up stalk shaded by tuft of leaves
Brussels sprouts are a highlight of fall and its transition to winter in the Midwest. They grow on a tall, thick, sturdy stalk. The sprouts spiral up the stalk and are shaded by a tuft of leaves at the top, but also down the stem. Chef Deborah Madison describes them like this: “There is something so silly and Dr. Seuss-like about a stalk of Brussels sprouts with its little hat of leaves that it makes you smile and want to eat the sprouts.”

There are several points that are very important when it comes to Brussels sprouts. First, as stated in the opening quote from Nigel Slater, frost and cold temperatures contribute significantly to the eating quality of Brussels sprouts. After a frost, the flavor of the sprouts is sweet, slightly nutty and pleasant. California is a major Brussels sprouts producer for the United States. While Brussels sprouts do grow well there, there are many who are of the opinion that the mild California coastal climate just isn’t quite cold enough for Brussels sprouts. Thus, consider yourself lucky that you live in Wisconsin & Minnesota where we can grow some delicious, sweet sprouts! In fact, this week’s sprouts survived our first hard frost of about 20˚F!

The second point of importance is DO NOT OVERCOOK THEM! When the color fades from bright green to a dark olive color, the flavor fades too. Overcooked Brussels sprouts go from crisp & tender to soft and mushy in texture and their sweetness is traded for a strong, unpleasant flavor with a pungent smell to accompany it. Larger sprouts should be cut in half or parcooked if left whole. Smaller sprouts may be left whole or cut in half. When you are ready to use them, simply trim the end and remove any spotty leaves. Rinse and then you are ready to use them. They can also be shredded by cutting them in half and putting the cut side down and slicing them thinly with a knife. Brussels sprouts may be sautéed, roasted, or lightly steamed just until the color is bright and they are tender to slightly al dente. While most frequently eaten cooked, Brussels sprouts may also be eaten raw. One pound of Brussels sprouts is equal to about 4 cups halved or 7-8 cups shredded.

Brussels sprouts pair well with smoky and salty foods including bacon, ham, aged or sharp cheese and blue cheese. Additionally, preparations often include mustard, walnuts, pecans, lemon juice, onions and garlic.

They are definitely worth eating from a nutrition standpoint. They are high in fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C and K and are packed full of powerful, cancer-preventing properties as well. Store your Brussels sprouts in the fridge in the bag we packed them in. You should open the bag a bit though and let them breathe.

Brussels Sprouts with Mustard-Cream Vinaigrette
Recipe borrowed from Deborah Madison’s book, Vegetable Literacy.

Serves 4
Mustard-Cream Vinaigrette
1 clove garlic
Sea salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp aged sherry vinegar
1 shallot, finely diced
5 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp sour cream
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Pound the garlic with ¼ tsp salt in a mortar (or on a cutting board) until creamy.

2. Put the garlic in a bowl and stir in the mustard, vinegar, and shallot. Let stand for 10 minutes, then vigorously whisk in the oil and sour cream to bring everything together. Taste to make sure the proportion is right, adjusting as needed with more mustard, vinegar or oil. Season with pepper. You may need to rewhisk just before serving.

Brussels Sprouts
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 Tbsp olive oil 
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Halve the Brussels sprouts lengthwise, or quarter them if they are particularly large. Drizzle with the oil, season with salt and pepper then spread them in a single layer in a large baking dish. 

3. Roast about 20 minutes if the sprouts are small, somewhat longer if they are very large. They should be tender, not mushy, and the cut sides browned.

4. Pile the sprouts into a bowl, toss with several tablespoons of the mustard-cream vinaigrette to moisten well, and serve.

Keralan-Style Brussels Sprouts
This recipe is Laura A. Russell’s version of a vegetable dish typically made with cabbage in the state of Kerala in India. This is one of many creative and simple recipes featured in her recently published book, Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables. This is a cookbook worth adding to your collection, especially as a CSA member. She includes recipes for many vegetables in the brassicas family including kale, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Asian greens and root vegetables including radishes, kohlrabi and turnips.

Serves 4
6 Tbsp shredded, unsweetened dried coconut
2 Tbsp water
1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 Tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp brown or black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp red pepper flakes

1. In a small bowl, combine the coconut and water and set the bowl aside.

2. Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts. Halve the sprouts through the stem end, turn each flat side down, and cut the halves into shreds. You should have about 8 cups.

3. In a large (12-inches or wider), deep frying pan or a wok, heat the oil with the mustards seeds over medium-high heat. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the seeds start to sizzle. Stir in the Brussels sprouts, cumin, salt, turmeric and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, until the sprouts wilt. 

4. Add the coconut mixture and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the Brussels sprouts are just tender. Taste and add additional salt if needed. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

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