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As a child, I was not a fan of Brussels sprouts. Of course, as a child our Brussels sprouts were frozen, then boiled to death, and then my mom favored putting vinegar on them, apple cider vinegar to be exact. So I had sulfuric tasting slimy vinegar balls to throw into my mouth to savor, yeah, NOT.
Properly cooked, that is the key
Brussels sprouts are good for you food. You can read about all of their benefits in this article from The World’s Healthiest Foods, but basically, Brussels sprouts are at the top of the list of commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables for their health benefits. Their total glucosinolate content has been shown to be greater than the amount found in mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, or broccoli.
Glucosinolates are important phytonutrients for our health because they are the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances. All cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates and have great health benefits, but it’s recent research that’s made us realize how especially valuable Brussels sprouts are in this regard. Brussels sprouts are a great antitoxin, provide vitamins and minerals, and when properly cooked, they are delicious.
Properly cooked, that’s the key. Brussels sprouts are actually better for you when cooked and steaming is the method that provides the most benefit.
I had my first, properly cooked, Brussels sprout in Germany when I stayed with my grandmother (Oma). Oma would go daily to shop for food. Her tiny refrigerator could only hold a few staples and a small amount of food so it was off to the markets; one for meat, one for fruits and veggies, and one for bread. The best and the freshest. She taught me the trick of soaking both Brussels and cauliflower (another one of my not so favorite vegetables as a child) in salted ice water for an hour to remove some of the sulfurous flavors. Then she would lightly steam the Brussels and top them with a pat of sweet butter and coarse salt.
My husband still refused to try them until he had them at Hawthorne Lane, now closed, in San Francisco. Dave and Annie Gingras opened this high-end restaurant in the Financial District South of Market where they created delicious meals and it became my husband’s “second” office so to speak; he must have eaten there 2 or more times per week. One day David said, “OH, I have the best treat in the world, some fresh baby Brussels sprouts; let me fix some for you.” Brian declined. When asked why he told much the same story about his experience with Brussels sprouts as I had. Slimy. Yucky. Round balls of goop.
David explained that would not be the case. David also explained that he choose the smallest, freshest, most tightly packed sprouts he could find. Then he cleans off the outside leaves, if necessary, cuts them in half, soaks them for 1/2 hour in salted ice water, drains them, and then sautés them until lightly browned and crisp-tender with some pancetta and shallots. Brian was a convert.
Brussels sprouts are commonly served at my house. Small, fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned and soaked. I have various preparations, including a chiffonade sautéed with pancetta, but this one, Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts is easy and delish and keeps the fats and calories down as well. And veggies should be fresh and low calorie, not big old fatty calorie bombs IMHO.
I served Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts at a dinner party. My guests had varying degrees of acceptance of the idea of eating this vegetable at the start of the party, but by the time the party was over, they were all converts. So if you don’t like Brussels sprouts, try this recipe. Maybe you will be a convert too.
Trim the Brussels sprouts by taking off the outer leaves and cut in half. Soak in salted ice water for 1 hour in the refrigerator. (This is the secret trick to removing the "smell" associated with Brussels sprouts, it also works for cauliflower). Drain and rinse.
Bring a pot with 2 inches or so of water to a boil; place the spouts in a steamer; steam until tender, about 5 minutes. (If you don't have a steamer, you can boil the sprouts but that does remove some of the benefits of eating them.) Remove and transfer to a bowl of ice to stop the cooking (can be prepared 1 day ahead to this point, store in an airtight container that is lined with paper towels to absorb the excess moisture). If you don't make these in advance, dry well with paper towels before you add them to the pan.
In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and butter together, when hot, add the Brussels sprouts and cook over moderately high heat until browned in places and hot.
Add the balsamic, salt and pepper and toss until well combined, remove from heat and toss with the walnut pieces.
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