Market Mondays – Brussels Sprouts

The poor, maligned, misunderstood Brussels sprout. Was there ever a vegetable so loathed?

It’s too bad really, because with astronomical amounts of vitamin K and vitamin C (273% and 161% respectively of the daily recommended intake) they’re a nutritional powerhouse. And that’s not counting the high levels of folate, Vitamin A, manganese and fibre. They count as those darky leafy greens that we’re all supposed to be eating more of, since they’re full of sulforaphane, a nutrient believed to have anti-cancer properties.

Brussels sprouts really did originate in Belgium, although a forerunner of the plant was known in Roman times. They made it to North America around 1800 when French settlers brought them to New Orleans.

When confronted with unharvested sprouts, most people don’t recognize them, assuming these “little cabbages” grow in the ground individually, when in fact they grow along a long thick stem with large cabbage-like leaves at the top. While they taste similar to cabbage, sprouts are, in fact, milder. They get their reputation of a bitter, sulphurous taste mostly from being overcooked. Steaming or boiling for 6-7 minutes is usually enough, and the standard of cooking them to mush has undoubtedly ruined an otherwise fabulous vegetable for a lot of people.

When purchasing sprouts, look for ones that are firm, compact and bright green. If you’re purchasing them loose, look for ones that are similar in size so that they’ll cook evenly. Remove any loose outer leaves and trim the woody base. If boiling or steaming, many people prefer to cut an X in the bottom so the sprouts will cook through more quickly and evenly.

Besides the traditional steamed sprouts served with holiday dinners, they’re a versatile vegetable that can be added to salads and casseroles, blanched and eaten as a crudite, or used anywhere that cooked greens would be appropriate (Brussels sprouts quiche, anyone?)

Finally, get ready to see a new type of Brussels sprout showing up in markets, stores and on dinner plates within the next few years. A novelty item in UK gardens, red Brussels sprouts are about to hit ASDA stores in England in time for the Christmas holidays. Reported to taste milder and sweeter than the green varieties, producers are hoping that these new red varieties will win over the former haters to the joys of tasty sprouts.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad
from Canadian Living

3 tbsp (45 mL) light mayonnaise
2 tbsp (25 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
1 tsp (5 mL) anchovy paste
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch pepper
4 cups (1 L) shredded Brussels sprouts, about 16 sprouts
2 tbsp (25 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp(25 mL) diced prosciutto or bacon

In large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, cheese, lemon juice, mustard, anchovy paste, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Add brussels sprouts, tossing to coat. Set aside.

In skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook prosciutto until crisp. Add prosciutto with oil to sprouts mixture, tossing to combine. Let stand for 10 minutes to wilt slightly.

From River Cottage
Sprouts make a fine sauce as well.

10 Brussels sprouts
3 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
150ml good olive oil
A bunch of flat-leafed parsley, chopped
A small bunch of tarragon, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh horseradish, grated
1 rounded tsp of capers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely shred or grate the Brussels sprouts.

Stir the vinegar and mustard together in a bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add the chopped sprouts, parsley, tarragon, garlic, horseradish and capers.

Taste and season with salt and pepper.