It’s sad, really.
Maybe it’s the gloomy day we’re having in Chicago. March is rough in these parts. 65º and sunny on Monday, 45º and rainy today and snow by Saturday. Oh joy.
The daffodils that are just starting to poke their little heads out of the ground in my front yard will love that news.
Dreary day or not, I can’t help feeling a bit sad for our little friends, the Brussels sprouts. It seems to me……(and I’m whispering) that many people don’t actually like them. (Gasp!)
My 10 year old, for one, won’t go near them. She wrinkles her nose and makes a sour face upon merely glancing at them at the grocery store. (How rude!)
There they sit in the produce section, those bright and shiny little green orbs, propped up on ice right next to the celery root, the fennel, the cabbage and the cauliflower (those other strong tasting, funky vegetables) as if they were saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” like it’s middle-school gym class all over again.
They so want to be liked.
There always seems to be an abundance of them at my grocery store. Week after week, day after day, there they sit………..waiting.
Slowly they lose their shininess, their leaves begin to separate. And then one fateful day, they’re dumped into a box and carted off to God only knows where by that horrible man in the dark green apron. (Shudder!)
Am I the only one buying these things?
Well I, for one, love them. And because I like the strong flavors of things like Greek olives, anchovies and stinky French cheese, this isn’t much of a stretch for me. I realize that. But, these plump little cruciferous cousins of the cabbage need some love too, and I can not do this alone.
Actually, I have a confession to make. I have always called them Brussel sprouts; no “s” on the Brussels. (Yikes!)
Yes I know all about Brussels and Belgium chocolate and Belgium waffles and beer. But I did not know that Brussels sprouts were originally cultivated in Belgium. I bet you did though, hence the “Brussels” with an “s”. Those double “s’s” sure do run together on the tongue. I never caught that, and apparently it was never a spelling word.
Anyway, I’m guessing it’s not so much the sprout that’s the problem here. I think it might just be the preparation that’s to blame.
My mom remembers my grandma boiling them until they
had no taste were soft, and serving them whole. No butter, salt, nothing. Just the big ol’ sprout sitting there on the plate as if it were saying,“Yeah. This is all I got. What do you want from me?”.
I loved my Grandma Mona, but she wasn’t the best cook in the world.
My 10-year-old mom would pretend to eat them, while secretly lining them up under the rim of the table until she was able to quickly dispose of them. That memory sort of ruined Brussels sprouts for her, so of course my brother and I grew up without them. (Sigh)
I can’t remember when I started eating them exactly. I think it was when I lived in Poland in the late 90’s. I remember my friend Justyna (YOU-STEENA) peeling off the leaves and cooking them in a pound of butter Paula Deen-style. Mmmmmmm……they were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Then again, just about anything would be delicious cooked in a pound of butter. Yes, that is definitely when sprouts and I became friends.
I remember politely asking the nice people at my corner vegetable stand if they had any Brussels sprouts that day. “Brukselka?”, I would ask.
“Slucham?!” (SOO-HOM), they would ask (which literally means “I’m listening”, but basically means, what?).
“Brukselka?”, I would ask. “Slucham?????”, they would shout even louder.
Back forth, back forth, and then I’d break out into a sweat and grab some carrots. Polish can be tough. All those consonants. But sometimes I found Brukselka and I started making them my own way. This way.
First you have to buy good sprouts. They should be firm and have tight, shiny leaves. I like them pretty small, because it seems the bigger they are, the more bitter they are, so stay away from those gargantuan things you sometimes see. Actually, this last batch, the ones you see in the photos were a wee bit big. I like them smaller, but this is what I could find and I had a craving.
Next you need to pick up some very good extra-virgin olive oil like my favorite. Don’t use just any old olive oil. Oh, no no no! I have heard that you’re supposed to only use the good stuff for finishing (salad dressing, etc.) and not for cooking. I cook with it and to me it tastes better than the regular stuff, but what do I know.
And then you’ll need some good sea salt like this one. Quality ingredients are what it’s all about.
First I wash and trim them, meaning I cut off the bottom stem and then peel off any leaves that are already loosening. I slice them in 1/2, toss them with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil (about 3 tbsp), sprinkle them with some sea salt and pop them into my toaster oven to broil.
After about 10 minutes, I give them a shake and a toss, and then leave them in for another 15-20 minutes. I can barely stand waiting for them to finish. Every so often I grab one to “test” for doneness. The outer leaves get dark and crispy, the middles soft and delicious with the olive oil and the sea salt.
In the end, it comes down to this; We all just want to be liked. The plight of the sprout is a rough one. Let’s give them a chance.
Extra Special Brussels Sprouts
Inspired by Justyna of Warshovia
1 bunch of Brussels sprouts (about 20)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them in 1/2 lengthwise. Toss them with the olive oil and few pinches of sea salt and put them under the broiler (on a broiler pan) for 20-30 mins. Toss them every once in a while, and taste-test for doneness. Sprinkle them with more sea salt to taste.
Serve as a side dish to just about anything, or eat them straight off the broiler pan like I do.