This may not be everyone's favorite vegetable, but I think Brussels sprouts have really been gaining a lot of popularity lately. Roasting them really changes the flavor profile, and of course adding a wonderful supporting cast of other yummy flavors (toasted pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano, aged balsamic vinegar, etc) certainly adds a little pizzazz to them for your pickier eaters.
Here are some things to remember. First, you need to start with really nice, fresh, young vegetables. Second, remember that the better the quality of the ingredients, the better your dish will be. That means, using the real deal Parmiggiano Reggiano, using a good aged balsamic vinegar, etc. Using junky ingredients will give you a junky dinner!
Ingredients: Click for Printable Recipe
1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut into quarters
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs Parmiggiano Reggiano, freshly grated
1 T pine nuts, toasted
As far as the Brussels sprouts, I used the smaller ones, as I think they are less bitter and more tender. Obviously, the first order of business is to remove them from the big stalk first.
Next, toss these into the extra virgin olive oil and some aged balsamic vinegar.Okay, so maybe we used a little bit more of the cheese than the recipe calls for. Who can blame us?
Food Nerd Notes:
The Brussels sprout is a cultivar of wild cabbage grown for its edible buds. The leafy green vegetables are typically around 1.0 - 1.5 inches in diameter and look like miniature cabbages.
Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. Brussels sprouts as we now know them were grown possibly as early as the 13th century in what is now Belgium. The first written reference dates to 1587. During the 16th century, they enjoyed a popularity in the southern Netherlands that eventually spread throughout the cooler parts of Northern Europe. Production of Brussels sprouts in the United States began in the 18th century, when French settlers brought them to Louisiana. Thomas Jefferson grew them at Monticello. The first plantings in California's Central Coast began in the 1920s, with significant production beginning in the 1940s. Currently there are several thousand acres planted in coastal areas of San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties of California, which offer an ideal combination of coastal fog and cool temperatures year-round. The harvest season lasts from June through January. They are also grown in Baja California, Mexico, where the harvest season is from December through June.
Brussels sprouts grow in heat ranges of 45–75 °F, with highest yields at 59–64 °F. Fields are ready for harvest 90 to 180 days after planting. The edible sprouts grow like buds in a spiral along the side of long thick stalks of approximately 24.0 - 47.0 in in height, maturing over several weeks from the lower to the upper part of the stalk. Sprouts may be picked by hand into baskets, in which case several harvests are made of 5 to 15 sprouts at a time or by cutting the entire stalk at once for processing, or by mechanical harvester, depending on variety. Each stalk can produce 2.4 to 3.1 lb. In the home garden, "sprouts are sweetest after a good, stiff frost."
Brussels sprouts, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anticancer properties. Brussels sprouts and other brassicas are also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Although boiling reduces the level of the anticancer compounds, steaming, microwaving, and stir frying does not result in significant loss.
The most common method of preparing Brussels sprouts for cooking begins with removal of the buds from the stalk. Any surplus stem is cut away and the surface leaves that are loosened by this cutting are peeled and discarded. Cooking methods include boiling, steaming and roasting; however, boiling results in significant loss of anticancer compounds. To ensure even cooking throughout, buds of a similar size are usually chosen. Whatever cooking method is employed, it is important not to overcook them, which will render them gray and soft. Overcooking releases the glucosinolate sinigrin, which has a sulphurous odor. The odor is the reason many people profess to dislike Brussels sprouts, having only ever tried them overcooked. Generally, six to seven minutes boiled or steamed is enough to cook them sufficiently. However, they taste best when sauteed or roasted.