Years ago, Brussels sprouts were commonly boiled, overcooked, and not a very popular vegetable. Newer cooking methods, which preserve the nutrients, are increasing their popularity.
Brussels sprouts are members of the Brassica and resemble tiny cabbages. Approximately one inch in diameter, most varieties are a sage-green color, though some varieties are red-hued. They are generally sold in supermarkets individually, but sometimes can be found still attached to the stalk, 20 to 40 in number.
Brussels sprouts are cultivated across Europe, and California is the source for most Brussels sprouts grown in the United States.
Sprouts are nutritious and fight birth defects
Brussels sprouts are a low-calorie, nutritionally-rich vegetable with only 60 calories for a one-cup serving. They are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, and a very good source of a number of other nutrients, which include: Potassium, folate, manganese, iron, protein, other B vitamins, calcium, and many more, including phytochemicals which fight diseases.
In addition to supplying nutrients with protect us against cancers, Brussels sprouts also protects the developing fetus in pregnant women.
Folic acid, a B-vitamin, is necessary for DNA synthesis, is an essential component for proper cell division. Without it during pregnancy, the fetus’ nervous system cells do not divide properly, and that has been linked to certain birth defects, including spina bifida. A one-cup serving of Brussels sprouts provides 93.6 mg of folic acid, yet folic acid deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency.
How to select and store Brussels sprouts
Do not choose Brussels sprouts which are spongy or soft. Choose firm, compact heads that are brightly colored, and free from yellowing leaves. The leaves should be free from blemishes and evidence of pests, such as brown spots or holes in the leaves. The peak season is in the autumn to early spring, though sprouts can be found year-round.
Do not wash or trim Brussels sprouts until ready to cook them. Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator and they should last approximately two weeks.
Serving and enjoying Brussels sprouts
Usually served as a side dish, Brussels sprouts can also be served cold as a salad, or as an addition to many main dish recipes. They can be cooked whole, halved or quartered. The important thing to remember about cooking Brussels sprouts is to not overcook them, regardless of the method used to cook them.
Basic recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts
Extremely easy to do, roasting gives Brussels sprouts a crispy, dark brown outer layer, while the inside is tender and has a sweeter flavor than when cooked by other methods.
First trim and wash them, removing any yellowing or wilted leaves. Leave the small heads whole, or cut the large ones in half vertically (through the core so each half is still attached to a part of the core.)
For 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of trimmed and washed Brussels sprouts, dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt in 2 quarts of water, and add sprouts. Soak them for about 1 hour, making sure they are completely covered, using a smaller bowl or plate to weigh them down if necessary. Drain them after an hour, but do not rinse.
Toss the Brussels sprouts in a bowl with 3 to 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, and a 1/2 teaspoon each of freshly ground pepper and salt (or more, to taste) until coated.
Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan and roast in a preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for approximately 35-45 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. They should be crisp outside, and any leaves that have separated from the sprout will be very browned and crispy. If a firmer, less cooked or browned Brussels sprouts are preferred, adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Serve warm from the oven or chilled from the refrigerator.
Variations to the standard recipe
Though the olive oil, pepper and salt are all that is needed to make Brussels sprouts tasty, try one of the following variations to the standard recipe:
–Sprinkle warm sprouts with freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese.
–Add a Tbsp. of minced, fresh garlic halfway through cooking and toss with the sprouts, or roast whole peeled cloves from the start.
–Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice or vinegar before serving.
–Toss with thinly sliced red onions, toasted walnuts, feta cheese, and white balsamic vinegar. Serve at room temperature.
The World’s Healthiest Foods @ WHFoods.org
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