Their alien appearance doesn't really help their cause and seems like something out of Dinotopia or Invasion of the Pod People it just can't put up a fight against the familiar bell pepper, or comfort and safety of the onion. Of course, I find that many people don't even know what they look like, yet have developed a fervent dislike, even fear, of the minute cabbages.
They have a myth all of their own that's cultivated at an early age. Cartoons and legends tell of brussel sprouts steamed to a limp mess of bitter and slightly transluscent leaves. Their near mutant-green hue, like that of some strange experiment gone awry, a signal of its horrid poison taste akin to that of a colorful rainforest frog. The horror story precedes any actual interaction with them and thus many find disgust in them.
Indeed their actuality is something a bit more humble. The stalks of sprouts were first cultivated in Rome, Belgium, and Romania. They eventually moved along into France and Spain until these countries brought them over to what would be North America with California now being the biggest producer of them in the states and Ontario in Canada. However, a large portion of sprouts are shipped in now days from Mexico, where due to the high heat their flavor suffers (however, their tight little bods can easily survive the trip). Still, this knowledge is lost on most and therefore the cruciferous little plants finds few fans.
"You made brussels sprouts?" More than a few guests have recoiled to this moment in the dinner I serve them, a slight grimace and a questionable look.
"But of course!" I reply. "You haven't tasted them my way." A sentence we have all heard before only to meet the challenge and reconfirm our disgust.
"Yeah... I dunno," a challenge always seems to arise but I took an oath the moment I plopped them in my shopping bag that as a sprout roadie it would be my job to convert another.
"You've only had them steamed or boiled haven't you?" I query.
"Yes," a quizzical look is directed at me, then back to the offending veggies to ensure they don't attack.
"Well, these have been pan seared with a bit of olive oil. The heat diffuses a lot of their bitterness. Afterwards they're salted and given a few fresh cracks of pepper, and then a light shaving of Parmesan cheese. Trust me, I've changed many minds with this dish."
The eyes rarely leave the plate and I'm never sure if the person hears me, so entranced with raw fear they are unable to respond to the most basic stimuli. After more coaxing, the victim relents to single bite.
"Wow... it's... good."
"I told you."
And did I. Many of my friends and family now buy the sprouts on their own to cook at home for themselves or for friends. I've made many a meal with just a large bowl of these and a small glass of white wine. Rustic, elegant, flavorful, and simple, plus you can do it on a tight budget. I encourage you, embrace the brussels sprouts.
Seared Brussels Sprouts
Serves however many you need...
What You'll Need...
As many brussels sprouts as your and your companions will eat. I can put away about 8 or 9, but usually 5 per person is good.
(kosher) salt and pepper
1. Cut off the stem of each sprout and discard it plus the loose outer leaves. Quarter them.
2. Place a few tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat the pan to high heat.
3. Place the sprouts cut side down. Allow them to sit for about 3 minutes. Give them a stir and a shake. They should begin to brown and char a bit, this is what you want. Eventually they will begin to pop and shimmy on their own, possibly even preforming a few little flips for you. After about 2-3 more minutes turn them into a bowl.
4. Grate with fresh Parmesan cheese and another sprinkle of salt and pepper. Serve immediately.