Friday, November 13, 2015

Brussels Sprout 101

Brussels sprouts are members of the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea) which includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and collard greens to name a few. This leafy green vegetable grows on a thick stalk which is edible and resembles mini cabbages. Brussels sprouts like to grow in a temperatures that range from 45F-75F and are harvested in temperate zones from September through March. Sprouts are considered to be the sweetest after the first frost. There are close to 110 varieties available with some even purple in color like the Ruby Crunch or the Red Bull. For a list of a few more common varieties in the United States go to this page from Cornell University.

The origin of the name Brussels sprouts is unclear but is most likely attributable to their popularity in Brussels, Belgium. It is suspected that the ancestor of the modern day Brussels sprout was cultivated in ancient Rome. The Brussels sprouts we are familiar with were likely grown beginning in the 13th Century in what is today Belgium. During the 16th Century they were popular in the southern Netherlands and then spread to the cooler climates of Northern Europe. Production in the United States started in the 18th Century after French settlers brought them to Louisiana. The first planting in the 1920’s were on the California Central Coast and reaped abundant crops due to the ideal climate. To this day, California is the largest producer of Brussels sprouts. 80%-85% of all US production of Brussels sprouts is for the frozen food market. 

Did you know that in Chinese medicine Brussels sprouts are prescribed to improve digestive health? And did you ever wonder why Brussel sprouts can be so stinky? They actually only smell when they are overcooked, especially boiled. The smell is associated with glucosinolate siningrin an organic compound that contains sulfur. This compound is also responsible for its cancer fighting ability. For more interesting and fun facts go to this site from foodrepublic.

To Store

According to The Kitchn here is the best way to get longevity out of your Brussel sprouts. Often they can be stored for several weeks before consumption.

Go ahead and take the sprouts off the stalk, but leave all their outer leaves intact. Store them in the fridge in a bowl or unlidded storage container. The outer leaves will shrivel and wilt in the open air, but the part of the sprout will remain protected. Remove those outer leaves before cooking.

Brussel Sprouts can be preserved. Check out this great page from that includes tips for freezing, canning, drying and more.

To Nourish

Brussels sprouts have wonderful health benefits. They are very high in Vitamin K, C, Folate, Manganese, Fiber and Vitamin B6. And they contain a good amount of Choline, Vitamin B1, Copper, Potassium, Phosphorus, Omega-3 fats and Iron. Brussels sprouts contain Glucosinolate which provides an ample supply of the sulphur needed to detox the body. As noted above, Brussel sprouts contain a high amount of vitamin rich antioxidants and aid in the prevention of cancer. Brussels sprouts provide protection from chronic and excessive inflammation while supporting cardiovascular health. They are high in fiber and promote digestive health. For more about the health benefits of Brussels sprouts go here.

To Prepare
The most common methods used for cooking Brussels sprouts are boiling, steaming, stir frying and sautéing, grilling, roasting and braising. Brussels sprouts can also be pickled and preserved. Before cooking, Brussels sprouts should be trimmed. Also, some cooks score the bottom of the Brussels sprouts as this allows for better heat penetration. For an informative video on trimming Brussels sprouts check this out from Fine Cooking. Overcooking will result in a gray and soft bud which can have a strong flavor with an unpleasant odor. Common garnishes include Parmesan and butter, Balsamic Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Bacon, Pistachios, Pine Nuts, Mustard, Brown Sugar and Pepper.

To Try 
Brussels Sprouts Kimchi
Sprout Kraut
Snack Time Brussels Sprout Chips
Waldorf Style Brussels Sprout Salad with Guanciale
Escarole and Brussels Sprouts Salad
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Apple Salad
Warm Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Bacon
Brussels Sprouts Crostini
Brussels Sprouts, Pancetta and Parmesan Flatbreads
Brussels Sprouts Pizza
Cast Iron Skillet Brussels Sprouts Bacon Pizza
Brussels Sprouts with Fried Egg and Spiced Yogurt
Individual Brussels Sprouts and Potato Frittatas
Crispy Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon-Horseradish Cream
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Sage
Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Almonds
Curried Brussels Sprouts
Mustard Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts with Horseradish and Pomegranate Seeds
Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts
Carrots and Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Wild Mushrooms
Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Caraway and Lemon
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Beer
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Pistachio Pesto
Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Thyme
Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Grilled Brussels Sprouts with Chanterelles
Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Mint
Smoky Brussels Sprouts
Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Shallot Saute
Shredded Parmesan Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chili Sauce
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Brown Butter
Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Pine nut and Breadcrumb Topping
Wild Rice Pilaf with Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Cornbread Stuffing with Brussels Sprouts and Squash
Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Stuffing
Fettuccine with Brussels Sprouts, Cranberries and Caramelized Onions
Creamy Fettuccine with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms
Orecchiette Carbonara with Charred Brussels Sprouts
Penne with Brussels Sprouts, Chile and Pancetta
Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts Pasta
Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Cream Pasta
Seared Scallops with Steamed Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprout Leaves with Chorizo and Toasted Almonds
Brussels Sprouts with Sausage and Cumin
Brussels Sprouts and Steak Stir Fry
To Use
For prep work, delicate peeling, dicing and any small cutting task, this Wüsthof® Classic Paring Knife, 3½ is the one to grab. Precision-forged from a single piece of steel, this high-carbon steel paring knife features a triple-riveted, ergonomic, full-tang handle that was designed in consultation with professional chefs. (Sur La Table, $39.95)