The Humble Brussels Sprout
Growing up, my mom always tried to make us eat well. No sugar, no preservatives, no junk food, the whole hippie food-style. The positive side of that is that I’ve been a vegetarian all my life, which I value. The down side of it is that I’ve been seriously traumatized by some foods.
For instance, brussels sprouts. Those little brassicas that look like adorable miniature cabbages. Most kids (and adults) would rather fish around in the kitchen sink drain and eat whatever they find there, than eat brussels sprouts. They probably had them prepared like my well-meaning mother did them, so that the final product was a squishy green fart.
I hated them for years, but when I hit 30, I decided to pretend to be a grown-up for a while and face my fears. Among other things, this meant trying brussels sprouts again. After a bit of hunting around, I found a good recipe for them and had a try. It was night and day. Instant convert to a brussels sprout fan in one bite.
The Man had his reservations when I first suggested making these for him. It took a little convincing, and the word ‘garlic’, for him to agree to have a taste. One bite. That’s all he would promise. And that bite was magic because he’s also a convert. I am not exaggerating here, even though I’m known to tell a tall tale or two.
I know you’re curious why they’re so delicious. You’re going to need a big frying pan and olive oil. Heat that up on medium heat with a good thick lake of oil (you can use butter, but it burns faster so watch it). Just salt and pepper, and about four or five cloves of chunky-cut garlic.
While the oil and garlic work their magic, slice the dry ends off the sprouts and cut them in half lengthwise from stem to crown. As soon as the garlic chunks start to get golden brown, scoop them out of the oil (The Man likes to eat these once they’re cool, like little garlic chips). Lay the sprouts in the pan, cut-side down in the oil, and then cover the pan.
In five minutes or so you’ll be able to stick a fork in them but they’ll still be bright green. When you take them out of the pan, you’ll see the cut sides are browned and crispy from the frying but the tops are still crunchy. The garlic oil has soaked up into the leaves like they’re sponges.
Serve as is, or with a sprinkling of grated hard cheese. They have a rich, nutty, cabbage flavor alongside the garlic, so I like to pair the sprouts with a nice plain rice or something fairly neutral. A small amount added to an ordinary dinner is ideal (they are brassicas after all and will make people play the trumpet if they over indulge).
Brussels sprouts have a good amount of protein, iron, B-vitamins, and fiber, and huge amount of vitamin C. Brassicas contain sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, both of which are proving in tests to actively fight cancer. As long as you don’t boil your brassicas, you usually get the full effect of these nutrient-heavy veggies.
So, remember the secret to Brussels sprouts is garlic and olive oil, a quick trip in the frying pan just to sizzle them, and then a touch of grated hard cheese. Try it. How bad can it be? Just one bite?