Friday, 26 September 2014

Recipe: Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Did you SEE those gorgeous brussels sprouts at the market this week at Riverbend Gardens' stall? That great big, towering pile? This is the season when we can expect to see those great big, gangly stalks covered in mini green cabbages appear at the market. Pete Luckett (of The Greengrocer's Kitchen) says, "any vegetable that shares its name with an elegant European city is bound to have a certain mystique," and I tend to agree. They began widely cultivating them in Belgium in the 16th century, and the name just stuck (but where's the apostrophe, the English Geek in me asks you!?) And of course, there's something else that is confusing about their name... they're not even sprouts at all!

For years, the appearance of these bizarre vegetables, right around thanksgiving, always intimidated me. Don't fall into that trap... they're so easy to cook! They are very tender and delicious... almost sweet, if done right. And they pack a lot of nutrition into each bite.

so what's so great about eating brussels sprouts?
These mini cabbages are powerful cancer preventers.
Brussels sprouts are members of the cabbage family. They make it right into the beginning of the 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth book: Cabbages in general probably contain more cancer-fighting nutrients than any other vegetable family. This claim to fame stems from the sinigrin chemical that they contain because it actually suppresses precancerous cells. Brussels sprouts also contain isothiocyanates and sulforaphane which inhibit cell proliferation, neutralize carcinogens and help to detoxify environmental toxins. Not bad, eh? It's time to give these little pearls a new place in your diet.

what's the best way to buy brussels sprouts?
Perfect stalks of brussels sprouts were at riverbend
gardens' booth this week
They're a cold weather vegetable, best in late September around these parts. At the grocery store, they're usually sold lose. But at the farmers' market, you can pick them up in their original, weird and wonderful state... all attached, like tiny, hard rosettes, on a towering stalk.

Select sprouts that are tightly wrapped in their outer leaves, no more than an inch and a half in diameter, and that feel heavy for their size. Avoid any that seem puffy, loose or are wrapped in yellowed outer leaves. Pete suggests storing them in a plastic bag in the fridge, unwashed, for up to 5 days and he says that the sooner you use them the better, because they grow cabbage-y tasting with age.

how do you prepare them for the kitchen?
Janelle and Aaron are the farmers behind Riverbend Gardens.
They stand here, behind a gigantic pile of brussels sprouts
at their booth at our market this past week.
Just pull each ball off the stock and then rinse them under cold, running water. Trim the stems and remove any loose, outer leaves. Cutting a small cross in the stem end helps them to cook more evenly. Small sprouts can be left whole. Large ones should be cut in half or even quartered so that they cook through without getting soggy on the outside.

how do you cook brussels sprouts? 
They are very versatile in the kitchen. It's best if you either cook them very quickly or give them a slow braising.

  • They can be briefly boiled (for no more than 4 minutes), then drizzled with butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. 
  • They can be sliced thinly and stir fried briefly in olive oil, then seasoned with fresh ginger and lemon juice. 
  • They can be parboiled and added in the last 20 minutes of cooking to a roast. 
  • And they can be braised, slowly and lovingly cooked in a a little wine or stock, for about 20 minutes.
Sautéed brussels sprouts with bacon
What doesn't go well with bacon? I mean... really!

8 strips of bacon, chopped
1 onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded

Fry the bacon and onion, if using, in a large frying pan or a wok until the bacon is crisp and the onions are soft and browned. Stir in the shredded sprouts, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Serve at once.

where can you find ingredients at our market?
Recipe and preparation info from The Greengrocer's Kitchen, by Pete Luckett, p. 33-35
Nutritional Information from The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, by Jonny Bowden, p. 27
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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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