Featured Item—Brussels Sprouts
I didn’t grow up eating Brussels sprouts. I guess that can be a good thing because it seems many folks develop a prejudice against these adorable cabbage like buds because of bad experiences with them growing up. Usually this attitude was the result of overcooked sprouts, which sadly, become bitter, sulfurous smelling, and overly soft. However, cooked just until tender, or even eaten raw, Brussels sprouts have a way of winning over even the biggest skeptics.
Brussels sprouts are a member of the brassica family, which includes cabbages, collards, kale, broccoli, and kohlrabi. This family has a reputation for promoting important health benefits, and Brussels sprouts are no exception. Besides being loaded with vitamins and minerals, they are also low calorie, moderately high in fiber, and are believed to help prevent cancer.
Brussels sprouts are named for Brussels, Belgium where they are popular and may or may not have originated. The “sprouts” are edible buds that grow along thick stalks. They are typically harvested once they have grown to size. The buds that grow on the bottom of the stalk are ready earlier and sometimes the buds are harvested off the stalk as they mature. However, we will be receiving the entire stalk in our distribution. This means there may be buds of different sizes, which can make a difference sometimes in cooking preparations.
Brussels sprouts can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw, they are particularly great thinly sliced so they “shred” and eaten like a slaw. For cooked preparations, they are typically steamed, braised, blanched, roasted, or sautéed. There is some evidence that important vitamins and compounds are leached out when they are boiled. Steaming, sautéing and roasting should largely alleviate this issue.
Because Brussels sprouts are tightly packed in the center, the edges cook faster than the center when cooked whole. Thus it is a good idea to score the stem end before cooking. To do this, many people make an “X” in the stem of each sprout with a sharp knife before cooking them whole. However, I think it is easier to just cook them halved or quartered. Also, larger buds will take longer to cook than smaller ones, so sorting and cooking by size, or cutting them to even sizes, will help them cook more evenly.
Try steaming quartered Brussels sprouts just until tender throughout, about 5 minutes. Then toss with your favorite vinaigrette. Or try the “shredded” sprouts cold with your favorite coleslaw dressing. Many people swear by roasted sprouts. See Ina Gartens popular, yet simple recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts
To prepare Brussels sprouts, cut each bud off the stem. Remove loose or yellowed outer leaves and trim stem end. Wash well. If there is concern about the presence of insects, you can soak them in salt water for 5-10 minutes before using them.
Brussels sprout buds should be firm, tightly packed, and vivid green. Avoid yellow, soft, or wilted buds. Sprouts will keep longer if left on the stalk. Wrap in plastic as best you can and store in the refrigerator. They should last about 1-2 weeks.
This recipe is adapted from Myrecipes.com. I added maple and whole grain mustard to add a little pizzaz. We typically have this side dish for Thanksgiving because it is light and delicious, but it also makes a lot. If you wish to make less, simply halve the recipe.
I save time by cutting the sprouts and onion in my food processor using the thin slicing blade. While the result is not as perfect as cutting each Brussels sprout individually, it saves a heck of a lot of time.
Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Maple and Pecans Serves 8
– 2 teaspoons unsalted butter or olive oil
– 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
– 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
– About 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, halved and thinly sliced
– 1/2 cup vegetable or reduced sodium chicken broth
– 2 tablespoons maple syrup
– 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
In a small bowl, whisk broth, maple syrup, and mustard. Set aside.
Heat butter or olive oil over medium-low heat until hot. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add Brussels sprout leaves. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add broth mixture; cook for 3-5 minutes more, stirring frequently, until liquid has almost evaporated and sprouts are crisp tender but not overcooked. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with pecans and serve.
I hear we may be getting spinach again this week. This is one of my family’s favorite ways of eating spinach. It is adapted from Bhg.com. Watch out, this dish might become a weeknight staple!
Chicken and Quinoa Stew with Spinach Serves 6
– 2-3 pounds boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ pieces and well trimmed
– 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
– 2 teaspoons chili powder
– 1 medium onion, diced
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tablespoon canola oil
– 3 14 ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
– 2 14 ounce cans low sodium chicken broth
– 1 large potato, diced
– 2 cups fresh or frozen corn
– 3/4 cup quinoa , rinsed
– 3 cups packed fresh spinach leaves, ribs removed, well washed
– finely shredded lemon peel
– 3 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Place chicken, flour, chili powder, 3/4 t salt, 3/4 t ground black pepper in a plastic bag. Seal and shake to coat.
2. In a medium 4-6 quart Dutch oven, brown chicken in batches in 2 t oil until browned. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Add rest of oil to pot and heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is soft. Add chicken, undrained tomatoes, broth, potato, corn and quinoa. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes or until potatoes and quinoa are tender.
3. Stir in spinach and lemon juice and cook just until spinach is wilted. Garnish each serving with lemon peel.