Nature’s “Little Cabbage”
Like other vegetables in the cabbage family, brussel sprouts are an ideal complement for many traditional turkey dinners. Chefs and home cooks alike are finding more creative ways to use these sweet, nutty tasting “little cabbages” packed with nutritional
Brussel sprouts grow on two to three-foot stalks, topped by a crown of leaves giving the plant the appearance of a small palm tree. Once the leaves begin to yellow, the 50 or more brussel sprouts are ready to be harvested as they mature from the base of the stalk upwards.
Choosing the right brussel sprouts is key to actually enjoying them. Their cabbage-like flavor is overpowering only when they are too mature or stored too long.
Eye the sprouts first – bright green leaves without signs of withering are fresh and best. Leaves should be tightly layered together and feel firm when squeezed. Choose 1 to 1 ½ inch size sprouts – a few yellow outer leaves are okay and can be trimmed off.
If you find brussel sprouts on the stalk, give them a try. They stay fresh longer than loose sprouts. Set the stalk in some water and cut or twist the sprouts from the stalk just before preparing. You’ll get a variety of sprout sizes from the stalk, so after preparing, cut the larger sprouts in half, lengthwise.
To prepare sprouts, remove any limp or discolored leaves, trim off the ends and rinse. You can cut an “x” in the stem end of each sprout – some say this ensures more even cooking, while others say it lets in water to make the sprout soggy! I was a fan of the “x” technique, but now leave the sprouts alone.
Simple simmering in a small amount of water for 8 to 10 minutes produces a nice tender sprout. Serve with a little butter and lemon juice and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
I prefer roasting the brussels. This method can convert a brussel sprout hater into a brussel sprout lover.
Simply toss the prepared sprouts onto a baking pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until tender and golden brown around the edges. Ready to serve.
Dress up the sprouts if you’re in the mood – drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and toss with Parmesan cheese, thyme and pepitas. Or, one can crisp-up a little prosciutto and mix into the cooked brussel sprouts just before serving.
If you prefer softer vegetables, pour ½ cup of water into the pan before baking, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue roasting for 10 to 15 minutes until the sprouts are browned and liquid is evaporated.
Brussel sprouts freeze well. Blanch the prepared sprouts in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well and place in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze. Once frozen, pack in freezer bags and store for up to 12 months.
The Orinda Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. More information is available at www.cccfm.org, facebook.com/OrindaFarmersMarket and Instagram at OrindaFarmersMarket or call the market’s hotline at 925.322.6228.
Barbara Kobsar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.