Thursday, November 5, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Brussels Sprouts

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz

Let’s face it: a lot of people love to hate Brussels sprouts. Visions of boiled-to-death, pale green, cabbage-like morsels just don’t seem appetizing—and indeed, when prepared that way, they become sulfurous and objectively unpleasant to eat, but it’s not their fault! And so, this week, we’re giving Brussels sprouts the attention they deserve as they are one of our personal farm favorites.

As a member of the cruciferae family, Brussels sprouts are towards the top of the list when it comes to neat ways in which vegetables grow. Their spherical heads cover a long, tall stalk and are produced from the leaf axils starting at the bottom of the stem and running upwards. Large, billowy leaves rise from the top of the stalk and essentially feed the plant to increase the likelihood of a healthy harvest.

At our market stand, we’re often faced with customers eager for the first round of Brussels sprouts each fall. However, it is really Mother Nature who dictates when our first harvest will be. Our sprouts need a good frost or two in order to increase their sugar content and really enhance the flavor—the same is true for the frost-sweetened, overwintered spinach we’ll have when we return to the stand in the spring.

In the kitchen, Brussels sprouts need to be treated with care. Raw, they boast a sweet, mild cabbage-y flavor, but when cooked their sweetness is further concentrated and they take on a wonderful, nutty flavor. Depending on your cravings, you can roast, blanch, sauté or braise your sprouts. The key is to cook them to the point of tenderness, not mushiness! One of the enjoyable culinary traits of Brussels sprouts is their ability to take on bold ingredients. They pair nicely with nuts, balsamic vinegar and bacon. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to toss halved, roasted sprouts with Dijon mustard and honey. They can, however, be eaten raw. Shredding their tender innards into a hash, salad or pasta dish is a creative and delicious way to prepare them. When you’re ready to prep your Brussels sprouts, remove the dry part of the stem at the base of each sprout. You can also remove some of the loose outer leaves. Now either leave your sprouts whole, halve or quarter them or shred them.

Store your Brussels sprouts in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. As they age, your sprouts will lose their sweetness and moisture, so use them in a timely manner. Nutritionally, this delicious vegetable will get you a high dose of vitamins A and C, along with a decent amount of iron.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts & Apples

Serves 2-3 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish
1 large, crisp apple, cut into bite-sized wedges
1 lemon, juice only
4 oz extra-firm tofu cut into tiny-inch cubes
A couple pinches of fine-grain sea salt
A couple splashes of olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
A Scant Tbsp of maple syrup
⅓ cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, washed and cut into ⅛–inch wide ribbons

  1. Soak the apples in a bowl filled with water and the juice of one lemon.
  2. Cook the tofu in large hot skillet with a bit of salt and a splash of oil.  Sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, wait a few seconds, now stir in the maple syrup, and cook another 30 seconds or so.  Drain the apples and add them to the skillet, cooking for another minute. Scrape the apple and tofu mixture out onto a plate and set aside while you cook the Brussels sprouts.
  3. In the same pan, add a touch more oil, another pinch of salt and dial the heat up to medium-high.  When the pan is nice and hot stir in the shredded Brussels sprouts.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a couple times (but not too often) until you get some golden bits and the rest of the sprouts are bright and delicious.  Stir the apple mixture back into the skillet alongside the Brussels sprouts and half of the pine nuts—gently stir to combine.  
  4. Remove from heat and enjoy immediately sprinkled with the remaining pine nuts.  This isn’t a dish you want sitting around, the flavors change dramatically after ten minutes or so, and I think that is part of the reason Brussels sprouts get a bad rap. 

Recipe featured on by Heidi Swanson

Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

Serves 4-5
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ Tbsp minced shallot or onions
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
⅛ tsp kosher salt plus more as needed for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch lacinato kale, center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
6 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
⅓ cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely grated Pecorino

  1. Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, ¼ tsp salt and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl.  Stir to blend; set aside to let flavors meld.  Mix thinly sliced kale and shredded Brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
  2. Measure ¼ cup oil into a cup.  Spoon 1 Tbsp oil from cup into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until gold brown in spots, about 2 minutes.  Transfer nuts to a paper towel-lined plate.  Sprinkle almonds lightly with salt.
  3. Slowly whisk remaining olive oil in cup into lemon-juice mixture.  Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add dressing and cheese to kale mixture; toss to coat.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Garnish with almonds.

Recipe sourced from Bon Appetit magazine, November 2011.

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