Monday, December 31, 2012

Meatless Monday: Beautiful Brussels Sprouts

I went foraging just before Christmas. I had agreed to provide Brussels sprouts for the Christmas Day feast, my only contribution to the dinner, and I wanted my dish to be perfect.

I started at the farmers’ market. Brussels sprouts are a cold weather crop, after all. There were none to be found. Next stop was a small market where I found some packed in small tubs, but they were rather pricey and the outer leaves were yellowed. So, I headed for a chain. There I found a sign for Brussels sprouts as advertised next to an empty space where the sprouts should be. The produce manager said he would get me some from the back. He returned with three “swords” of sprouts over his shoulders. He told me that’s the way the sprouts had been coming in this season, on the stem, not trimmed and packaged.

They were beautiful, densely packed with tiny, firm, bright green little heads. I bought two, clueless as to how many I would need.

I found a place for the swords in the fridge, and the next day I trimmed the heads from the stalks. Here is the yield – enough to totally fill a one gallon ziplock bag!

On Christmas morning, I emptied out the sprouts, selected about 2 quarts on the smallest ones, washed them well, and spun them dry in a salad spinner. As instructed on the tag from the Salinas, CA grower, I cut a small “x” in the stem end of each sprout, to help the inside to cook as rapidly as the outside.

I prepared them as the Barefoot Contessa suggested, by coating the sprouts with oil, salt and pepper and roasting them in a hot oven. The only variation I made to her recipe [By now, you know I always have at least one.] was to use a cast iron pan instead of a sheet pan and to lower the oven temperature by 25°. I timed them to be done just before we left for dinner, placed them in a covered casserole, and then warmed them in my friend’s oven while we had appetizers. These sprouts were the best ever. 

Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea variety gemmifera), a member of the mustard family, originated in Belgium, where they may have been grown as early as 1200. The plant has a relatively long growing period, and requires a mild, cool climate to thrive. A late season crop, their taste is improved by frost.  

Brussels sprouts are rich in nutrients, particularly Vitamin C.

Freshly plucked from the sword, and roasted this simple way, the sprouts will taste nothing like the pungent-smelling, overly-boiled cabbages you might remember from your youth.

There is only one caveat. Warfarin (blood thinner) users might want to forgo this treat, or limit their intake to just a few. Brussels sprouts are also very rich in Vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting, counteracting the effects of the warfarin. Last year a heart patient in Scotland ended up in the hospital because he over-indulged. Doctors were able to stabilize him. 

Happy Monday! Happy New Year! Eat your veggies! Thanks for reading.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”


  1. I made these for New Year's Eve -- quite a hit!

  2. Sounds lovely! Never seem them on "swords" here in Spain; they're always in packed in those horrid plastic boxes, which do the environment no favour.

  3. FYI The sword yielded so many sprouts that I prepared them all but set a small serving for two aside in a heavy-duty ziplock bag and froze them. In early February I removed them from the freezer, emptied the sprouts into a casserole dish, covered them with the lid, and baked them in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes. They were just as delicious nearly two months later.