Call me a messiah, a guru, a bringer of light. I must possess a higher power, for I can find no earthly explanation in my unthinkable accomplishment: inspring the brussels sprout enlightenment of my father. A child of the 1960’s and 70’s, my father shared a house in Arkansas with six brothers and sisters, my duck-hunting grandfather, and my southern-cooking grandmother. Gran slow-simmered traditional down-home fare such as collard greens, mac and cheese, pork ribs, and biscuits, all of which my father adored like a true southern boy. But, like many an unfortunate and naive mother, my gran fell victim to the decade’s homicidal view of vegetable cookery: boil everything into mush. Thus, my father’s hatred of smelly, acrid, watery brussels sprouts began, and with darn good reason! Who wants to eat a steaming green ball reeking and tasting of old-man gym socks?
As a young girl, I followed suit of my father’s brussels spout shunning. I was never too picky of an eater (save for a firm defiance toward all fruit except apples), but through a combination of sitcom kids’ anti-brussels sprout/broccoli jokes, the innate childlike urge to annoy my mother, and my father’s flat out refusal to even keep the mini-cabbages in the refrigerator, I harbored a resentful view of my father’s least favorite vegetable.
Turning point: veganism. (In infinitely more ways than simply brussels sprouts!) Constantly searching for the healthiest foods, I rediscovered brussels sprouts as a member of the acclaimed cruciferous family, along with broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and the like. To my mother’s delight and father’s dismay, I picked up a bag of brussels sprouts at the farmers market one Saturday in the early fall of 2009. Recalling the overcooked green-gray globs that popped into my head whenever I heard their name, I hunted for a method of brussels sprout cookery that wouldn’t yield odorous, disgusting results. Boiling: absolutely not. Steaming: still too much water involved. Sauteeing: getting better… Roasting: DING DING DING! We have a winner. I adore any roasting any vegetable, from sweet potatoes to asparagus to tomatoes, because of their concentrated, smoky flavor and tender, succulent texture. What better way to familiarize both my father and myself with brussels sprouts than by my favorite cooking method? After the first roast, my family was hooked; we’re a group of roasted brussels sprout addicts.
Tonight, my father’s eyes lit up at the mention of the first roasted brussels sprouts of the season. He gazed upon the stalk of brussels sprouts with pure affection, envisioning the tiny, juicy cabbages and crispy outer leaves (almost like little brussels sprout chips!) of the dinner ahead.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts (Gluten Free, Soy Free, Nut Free)
- 1 lb brussels sprouts (they certainly don’t have to come on the stalk, but you’ll feel a much greater sense of accomplishment if they do!)
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste (I don’t usually include salt in my recipes, but it’s truly necessary for maximum flavor in this dish.)
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
If harvesting from a stalk, free the brussels sprouts from their tree-like prison with a paring knife where each sprout’s base meets the stalk. Don’t forget to save those leaves at the top of the stalk for later! From here, directions are the same whether your sprouts came from a stalk or a bag. Give the sprouts a good rinse, as cruciferous vegetables are notorious for hanging onto grit and dirt, then pat them dry. Trim the woody bottom, discard any yellowing or blackened outer leaves, and halve each sprout (leave very small ones whole).
Toss the sprouts with enough olive oil to sufficiently coat, sprinkle with salt and a generous grinding of black pepper, and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes until the halved brussels sprouts are slightly charred and tender while the individual scattered leaves are golden brown and crispy. Devour and begin your love affair with brussels sprouts.
I served up a generous helping of brussels sprouts alongside a simple quinoa-kidney bean pilaf and two ears of sweet corn. (Sadly, not miso-grilled since our grill tank ran out of propane midway through dinner preparation. Grr!)
Meal Checklist: Protein–kidney beans. Whole Grain–quinoa. Vegetables–corn. Leafy Green–brussels sprouts.
Comment Provoking Questions: Where do you stand on the love/hate brussels sprout spectrum? What vegetable did you hate as a child that you love now? How do you like to introduce yourself to new, unfamiliar vegetables?
Until next time, Ali.
Recipe linked to Wellness Weekend.