Season of the sprout

  • Article by: FAITH DURAND , TheKitchn.com
  • Updated: November 24, 2010 - 3:37 PM

Time to taste these tiny cabbages cooked right.

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There is an upside to fall's cold snaps: hardy vegetables such as Brussels sprouts always seem to taste better.

Photo: Bill Hogan, MCT

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At this time of year, I'm mad for Brussels sprouts. After the first frost is when these tightly furled little cabbages really come into their own, as the cold makes them sweeter.

Brussels sprouts stay delicious and fresh through the winter, and their vibrant color is welcome during the cold months when it seems that there are no green vegetables left. (To take fullest advantage of their sweetness and freshness, buy your sprouts on the stalk, if possible.)

They will be gone as soon as spring gets close, but until then I could eat them three times a week.

I love the easy recipe that follows for Lemon-Marinated Brussels Sprouts With Parsley and Shallots, first of all because it brings color to the winter table. But it's also a wonderful make-ahead recipe, and the sprouts get better and better as they sit in the refrigerator. Let them come to room temperature before serving.

Hashed Brussels Sprouts With Hazelnuts and Fried Capers was inspired by the warm salad of Brussels sprouts leaves with fried capers and hazelnuts at Contigo, a great Spanish and Catalan restaurant in San Francisco. I had a very memorable meal there last year, but it was this dish that took the top prize -- fresh, warm and interesting. The recipe that follows riffs off that one but sticks to a slightly easier preparation by hashing the sprouts (just chop them up fine, or use a mandoline).

If you don't like Brussels sprouts, maybe you just haven't had them prepared the right way. Here are some surefire ways to taste them at their best.

Blanched and tossed with olive oil. Brussels sprouts are perhaps at their most appealing when they are crisp and crunchy. Don't overcook them; just blanch them quickly, then toss with lemon and olive oil in a fresh salad with shallots.

With beets. Brussels sprouts' cruciferous flavor is wonderful when paired with the sweeter, mellower beet. How about a dish of sprouts and golden beets?

Roasted. This is perhaps the easiest way to enjoy Brussels sprouts.

Shredded, in a salad. Like their larger sibling, the cabbage, sprouts are great shredded in raw salads.

Wrapped in bacon (or pancetta). Everything is better with bacon, and Brussels sprouts are no exception, especially when garnished with almonds. Wonderful little bites!

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