If your only memories of Brussels sprouts are that of overcooked, flavorless little heads of smelly cabbage that even the dog wouldn’t eat, you owe it to yourself to give them another try. Not only are they a great source of vitamins A and C, high in protein, and loaded with fiber, but when prepared properly, these little gems are sure to be your new favorite vegetable, guaranteed.
Brussels sprouts (yes, they have an “s” at the end of their name for the capital city in Belgium where they originated) are one of seven cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea, or wild cabbage. Cultivars—short for “cultivated varieties”— are plants that have been produced by selective breeding. Other popular cultivars of Brassica oleracea are kale and collard greens, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Fun Fact: Brussels sprouts contain the gene, TAS2R38, which causes them to taste bitter to certain people.
Cooking Brussels Sprouts
Like other cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts release a smelly sulfur when they are overcooked. It’s important to cook Brussels sprouts just until tender. They can be steamed, boiled, roasted, grilled or sautéed; the flavor often benefitting from a bit of caramelization, i.e., browning, by roasting or pan frying. Try to choose sprouts of a similar size so they will cook evenly. Splitting the sprouts in half reduces cooking time, which is important when trying to avoid overcooking.
Selecting The Best Brussels Sprouts
When choosing Brussels sprouts in the grocery store or farmers market, find tight, hard, compact heads, that seem heavy for their size. Avoid leaves with brown or yellow patches or any leaves that are starting to get slimy. If some outer leaves are loose, or have become darker green and coming away from the head, trim them when cleaning, along with any brown coloring at the cut end.
This simple recipe is sure to make you a convert:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
This recipe uses only 4 ingredients but is big on flavor for a memorable side dish.
1 1/2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400º F. Trim the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Cut each sprout in half.
Mix Brussels sprouts in a a large bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them out on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes until browned and crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Halfway through the cooking time, use a spatula to turn them so they cook evenly. Serve immediately.