10 November 2007

Brussels Sprouts

One summer a good friend of mine and her family stayed with me for a week. While she was here, she frequently stopped at the nearby produce market and brought something unusual back for us all to try. She told me she’d heard we should try something new every day! Sometimes seasonal or exotic produce was just the thing to do the trick.

That summer my friend introduced me to kumquats and apricots for the first time. Later that summer I tried lychee and figs. I felt adventurous, enjoyed the experience and challenged other friends and family to do the same.

I still stop by the local produce market regularly and I still find new things to try from time to time. A few days ago, when I stopped by for milk and bananas, I noticed big green stalks in a large box out front. When I got closer I saw that they were brussels sprouts. I had never bought them fresh on the stalk before. I remembered my friend’s lesson and, thinking it had been a while since I had tried anything new, I challenged myself to buy a stalk.

When I got them home I had to admit that I didn’t really know how to prepare brussels sprouts. I probably never even ate a brussels sprout until I was in my 20’s. My husband had indicated over the years that he was perfectly fine with that omission from his diet and my children somehow learned to turn up their noses at the cute vegetable. On a few occasions I had half heartedly tried to encourage them to pretend they were giants eating a plateful of large cabbages but they didn't go for it. When my oldest son was young he was even overheard describing something he found terribly offensive as tasting all “brussels sprout-y.” Figuring that if I cooked them I would also be the only one eating them, they just never seemed to be worth the bother.

Now that I had my stalk of brussels sprouts on the kitchen counter I had to figure out how to cook them. A quick Internet search yielded lots of choices. I settled on a recipe at SimplyRecipes.com for Brussels Sprouts with almonds and butter and onions.

I was surprised by how pretty the crisp tender brussels sprouts were. I was also surprised by how much I liked the taste. Those who share my table seemed less impressed but everyone tried them and there were no real complaints. I found that encouraging. You have to start somewhere!

My husband commented that he thinks cabbage is just as good and easier to prepare. In a sense, I agree. Still, from my point of view, brussels sprouts have some fundamental advantages. Their shape and texture appeal to my imagination and the color sparkles on a plate when they are fresh and barely tender. They also add an elegance that cabbage just can't match. With all of these virtues brussels sprouts can elevate the look of a meal from everyday fare to something special. So, try them, and enjoy the adventure!

Brussels Sprouts with Almonds


1 stalk fresh brussels sprouts
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice, or 1/2 fresh lemon
salt and pepper
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

Cut or break the sprouts from their stalk. Remove any outer leaves from the sprouts that don't look fresh. Wash thoroughly and cut away any unattractive spots. Place the sprouts in a pot and steam them for approximately 5 minutes, just until their color brightens. Rinse again in cold water, drain, and cut the sprouts in half ( cut very large ones in quarters.)

Melt butter in a large skillet and saute onions until tender. Add the brussels sprouts and cook over medium to medium-high heat, for approximately five more minutes, stirring frequently until the sprouts are crisp tender. Do not overcook!

Remove the skillet from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with one teaspoon of lemon juice or squeeze half a fresh lemon over the sprouts. Stir. Top with the toasted almonds.

Enjoy!

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