July 2014 Issue

Brussels Sprouts — Good Things Come in Small Packages
By Bryan Roof, RD, LDN
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 16 No. 7 P. 66

When my daughter, Layla, was 3, the doctor asked her what she was looking forward to eating at Thanksgiving. Her response: Brussels sprouts. Judging by her doctor’s reaction, that wasn’t a common answer.

Although my family has a deep appreciation for Brussels sprouts, we don’t reserve them just for the holidays. We roast them year-round with olive oil and salt for a bare-bones approach and then dress them up with caramelized onions and bacon on special occasions.

Despite my daughter’s infatuation and their current trendiness, Brussels sprouts have had a varied history. They were developed in Belgium in the 13th century through artificial selection and always have suffered a bit in popularity. A poll conducted in the United States actually placed them near the top of the country’s list of most hated vegetables. It does seem that every other horror story about being force-fed veggies as a child involves boiled Brussels sprouts. The scars run deep for some, I suppose.

Still, these miniature cabbages have plenty to offer. They take well to various cooking methods, including blanching, sautéing, and deep-frying. They’re great shaved thin and eaten raw in salads, and the aforementioned roasting especially is appealing to kids because it brings out the inherent sweet, nutty flavors. Not to mention, the intense heat of a hot oven drives off any offensive cabbage-y odors and renders the thin outer leaves crackly, like cruciferous chips.

Although you can find them most of the year, Brussels sprouts are in season in late fall and early winter, and that’s when they tend to taste the sweetest. When shopping, look for small sprouts, which are sweeter and more tender than large ones. Large sprouts also are slightly more woody and fibrous. It’s better if you can buy Brussels sprouts still on the stalk because they’re usually fresher and a little cheaper.

In reality, it isn’t hard to get kids to eat vegetables. As simple (and challenging) as it sounds, all you need to do is make them taste good. And roasting nearly any vegetable gives you a leg up in the flavor department. Sure it takes a few tries, maybe even a dozen, but one day it clicks. And who knows, you may even impress your pediatrician.

— Bryan Roof, RD, LDN, is a chef, dietitian, and food writer living in Boston. Follow him on Twitter @bryanroof.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

Serves 4

2 lbs Brussels sprouts, stemmed and halved
4 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 anchovies, minced
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup blanched hazelnuts

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425˚F. Toss the Brussels sprouts with 2 T oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Spread the sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet, cut sides down. Roast until tender, deep brown, and crispy on the edges, about 20 minutes. Let sprouts cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 2 T olive oil, garlic, and anchovies in a small saucepan and set over low heat. Cook until the garlic is straw-colored and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the lemon juice and Aleppo pepper.

3. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a large bowl. Add the parsley, onion, hazelnuts, and dressing, and toss to combine. Adjust the seasoning with salt and Aleppo pepper to taste. Serve.

Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 330; Total fat: 24 g; Sat fat: 3 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 5 mg; Sodium: 500 mg; Total carbohydrate: 26 g; Fiber: 10 g; Sugars: 6 g; Protein: 11 g