Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Buzz on Brussels Sprouts and Other Veggie Tales

Most of my Saturday mornings involve a trip to the farmer's market, at least during the winter. (And when I am not busy mushroom hunting.) Today I learned that fresh, organic Brussels sprouts create a stir. Even those who have found them foul in the past often want to give them another try. So, the buzz at the market today was about the sprouts, not the first-of-the-season asparagus as I had expected. Maybe the small amount of asparagus available didn't make tongues wag but the Brussels sprouts were the catalyst for at least 5 conversations, mostly with strangers.

Every time I spoke to someone about the sprouts, someone else either asked a question or chimed in. One woman shared that she roasts her sprouts for the best flavor. I told her that I have done that, too, with great success but I have found that the key to terrific Brussels sprouts is to precook them by blanching, steaming, microwaving or boiling. By doing this you are eliminating the sulfur compounds which account for a bitter taste and stinky odor.

The key to great Brussels sprouts is to get them young and fresh. The best size is about a 1-inch sphere but a little larger or smaller is fine. Best to err on the small side. The bigger the sprout, the more pieces I cut it into before cooking. After doing the precook, I either add a little olive oil and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees F. for about 20 minutes, or sauté them on stovetop with a bit of oil and garlic (you can certainly omit the oil in a good nonstick pan) or best yet, put them in a pressure cooker with a bit of veggie stock for about 1 minute at high pressure and then quick release the pot. I like to finish my sprouts with a splash of balsamic vinegar or a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of chopped, toasted nuts such as hazelnuts. They are so tasty that you have to remember to buy more than you think that you need. I call them "the vegetable that people love to say that they hate" but the truth is, when prepared properly, they are incredibly delicious.


katierall said...

My latest produce find is kohlrabi. I don't remember ever eating it before & it caught my eye, so I decided to give it a try.....mmmm. It has an almost nutty flavor & the tops were great steamed with a little olive oil & fresh garlic.

The Veggie Queen said...

I eat kohlrabi and use it as a mystery vegetable in my classes. I can almost always stump them with it. For some reason, the tops are always too tough for me to eat but yesterday I cooked up some turnip and watermelon radish greens. And they were so yummy.