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Monday, December 15, 2008

An Appreciation of Sprouts

Up until 2007 I thought Brussels Sprouts were nasty, smelly and not worth eating. When they were made in my family they were boiled until the smelled badly, were a uniform ugly greenish color, and mushy. Even when an effort was made to pick up a stalk of them fresh at a farm market the end result was the same. Occasionally I'd be coaxed to eat a few raw, but that was it.

Last year, after reading a recipe in Farmer John's "Real Dirt on Vegetables" cookbook and much encouragement from many people I talked with, I bought a stalk at the Pumpkin Patch and decided to try them out. The result was so amazingly delicious! I'm not sure why I didn't have any more last year, but during the summer I thought about them, looked forward to seeing them return to the farmer's markets.

The past several weeks there have been multiple meals with sprouts on a similar theme, braised until tender. Each time the result is eaten quickly, any lingering ones in the pan popped into our mouths as we cleaned up.

Here's my suggestions for enjoying these delicious and nutritious vegetables in season until early spring. Trim the ends of the sprouts and clean off a few of the outer leaves, revealing the bright green underneath. Cut the sprouts in half. Heat a pan with some olive oil and when the oil is hot place the largest sprouts first, cut-side down into the oil. Put as many of the sprouts cut-side down into the pan and let them saute, covered, until the start to sear and caramelize slightly.

Here's where you can go simple or more complex. After the sprouts have sauteed a bit, add some liquid to braise, covered, until they are just tender. Serve and enjoy! I have tried the following for my braising liquid with great results:

  • Molasses, balsamic vinegar and a little water
  • Just water & sea salt
  • Water & sweet chili sauce (the kind you dip spring rolls into)

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