Growing up I was exposed to, and learned to love, almost every kind of vegetable, but I often caught wind of food woes from my childhood friends. Mostly the complaints had to do with being forced to eat vegetables -- and in many cases, the culprits were Brussels sprouts. When overcooked, Brussels sprouts become mushy and sulfurous-tasting. When cooked well, however, they can be downright delightful.
Brussels sprouts grow like little buds along long stalks. Usually they are picked off the stalks when harvested, but if you're lucky, you can sometimes find them at farmers markets still attached to the stalks. They are high in vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fiber. Not only that, but they contain phytochemicals such as sulforaphane that are believed to have powerful anti-cancer properties.
Continue reading to learn how to choose and store this seasonal vegetable, as well as ideas and recipes for how to prepare them.
How to choose and store Brussels sprouts
Look for Brussels sprouts that are firm and compact. The ends should be clean and fresh looking. Generally speaking, the smaller the Brussels sprout, the sweeter it will be. Brussels sprouts that are larger than one inch in diameter tend to have that strong and pungent cabbage flavor that is often negatively associated with Brussels sprouts.
Store Brussels sprouts in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer in your refrigerator. Do not wash them until you are ready to use them, as moisture will hasten spoilage.
How to use Brussels sprouts
Raw: Fresh, in-season Brussels sprouts can make a surprisingly delicious raw salad. Try grating them finely using your food processor, and then toss them with toasted hazelnuts, Pecorino cheese and a little lemon juice and olive oil. Click here for the full salad recipe.
Roasted: To create a simple and no-fret Brussels sprout side, halve them, toss them in a little olive oil and roast for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F. Or, for a slightly spruced up version, try this recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts with rosemary and red onions.
Braised: Sauté whole Brussels sprouts and sliced shallots in olive oil until they just start to caramelize on the outside. Add in just enough vegetable or chicken stock to go halfway up the sprouts and braise, covered, about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in a little butter and fresh herbs.
Sautéed: Sautéing over high heat is one of the best ways to bring out the natural sweetness and nuttiness of Brussels sprouts. For perfectly sautéed Brussels sprouts, parboil them in salted boiling water for just a couple of minutes. Halve them and let them dry before charring them in canola oil over high heat. Or try this recipe for sautéed Brussels sprouts in balsamic reduction:
Brussels sprouts with balsamic reduction recipe
Serves 4 as a side
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed (but save the stray leaves!)
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- Pinch raw sugar
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Parboil Brussels sprouts about two minutes. Transfer to an ice bath to stop cooking. Once cool, halve them lengthwise and let them dry on paper towels.
- While Brussels sprouts are drying, bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk constantly until reduced by half. Transfer to large mixing bowl.
- Heat a large skillet over high heat and add halved Brussels sprouts into the pan cut side down. Let them cook until brown and caramelized (now is a good time to throw in those stray Brussels sprouts leaves). Flip and continue cooking for another two minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Transfer Brussels sprouts to the bowl with balsamic reduction and toss. Using tongs, pull sprouts from bowl, discarding excess balsamic.
More Brussels sprouts recipes
Roasted Brussels sprouts with cabbage and pine nuts
Warm Brussels sprouts salad with gorgonzola and sunflower seeds
Brussels sprouts with radicchio and pancetta