Discoveries on the Produce Aisle
Last week I found stalks of Brussels sprouts for sale in the produce section of Sprouts market. A generous quantity of individual sprouts adorned each stout central stalk budding out from the base where each leaf had grown. It caught me by surprise. I don’t often see Brussels sprouts for sale like that so I put a stalk in my cart based on the novelty alone.
Farther down the aisle I saw bags of fresh cranberries. Not yet sure how I might use them I remembered years when they were hard to find. They make a great garnish or decoration, if nothing else, and can always be frozen for later use so I put a bag of those in my cart as well.
While I wondered how I might use my impulse purchases I gathered a few more items and pushed my cart to the front of the store. In the process I forgot the orange juice, one of the main reasons I had come to the market in the first place. That’s just how my shopping rolls sometimes.
A Pretty Combination
Unloading my groceries I was impressed by how festive my produce looked. The deep red of the cranberries sparkled beside the fresh green of the Brussels sprouts. Both were pretty in their own way and together they looked like Christmas.
But both can be tricky too. The flavor of Brussels sprouts quickly develops from bright crisp-tender freshness to mushy gray bitterness if even slightly overcooked. And cranberries, if undercooked, have a pithy texture, are sharply tart and lean toward bitterness too. In the end I put them both in one dish, letting them balance each other in combination.
I have learned that roasting Brussels sprouts can bring out the finer qualities of this nutrition-packed vegetable, so I cut each sprout in half and roasted them cut side down on a baking sheet. Halfway through roasting, once the cut edges began to brown, I added the cranberries along with a little maple syrup to soften the tartness and a splash of balsamic vinegar to mellow any bitterness. I also scattered a handful of pecans on top to round out the flavors and add a hint of crunch. The result was flavorful and elegant, perfect for Christmas dinner but easy enough to serve at any meal.
1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed and halved
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup fresh cranberries, washed and sorted
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ cup pecan pieces
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place Brussels sprouts in a 1 gallon Ziploc bag. Add olive oil along with salt and pepper. I use about ¼ teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Zip the bag shut. Shake until the Brussels sprouts are evenly coated. (Or simply toss ingredients in a bowl if you don’t have a Ziploc bag handy.)
Spread Brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking pan, cut side down. Place baking pan in the center of the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes (depending on size of the Brussels sprouts).
Meanwhile, whisk together the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Stir in the fresh cranberries until coated.
After 10-15 minutes, when the cut surfaces of the sprouts just begin to brown, remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven. Pour the cranberry mixture over top, stirring the Brussels sprouts and cranberries together. Sprinkle the pecan pieces over all.
Return the pan to the oven and continue roasting 10-15 minutes, until sprouts are fork tender and cranberries have softened.
Serve and enjoy!