Cute as they may look, Brussels sprouts don't have a flavor profile kids -- or many adults, for that matter -- can cuddle up to. One year, Deborah Graham, a 53-year-old writer and school board member in Evanston, Ill., tried them out on her three children and got a typical response.
"The kids thought they were disgusting," she says, "bitter, mushy -- definitely not a hit."
But she kept at it, serving the sprouts a variety of ways. By the time Halloween rolled around, she knew she'd converted at least one child to liking them when her daughter Sarah, age 5, traipsed up to a neighbor's door to trick-or-treat and was presented with a platter of Brussels sprouts.
"Ooooo! Brussels sprouts!" said Sarah appreciatively, not realizing the little green morsels were meant as a "trick," not a "treat."
Graham says that stir-frying fresh, halved sprouts with other vegetables in sesame oil was the first hit, and now roasting Brussels sprouts with kosher salt and olive oil -- a preparation that results in nutty, fork-tender yumminess -- converted her 13-year-old son. "Roasting Brussels sprouts is now our preferred preparation," she says.
Cooking With Brussels Sprouts
With 40 calories per four-sprout serving, Brussels sprouts are low-calorie, low in sodium, an excellent source of fiber, and, like most vegetables, nearly fat-free. They're also very high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate. Brussels sprouts and other veggies in the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower) contain healthy plant chemicals or phytochemicals called glucosinolates that produce protective enzymes in the body; some research suggests these enzymes might help ward off cell damage and eliminate carcinogens that can lead to cancer.
Roasted sprouts are especially tasty. To roast, heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove tough outer leaves from Brussels sprouts and trim off and discard bottoms. Cut sprouts in half and rinse in a colander with cold water. Drain well and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil for every 2 cups sprouts. Spread in single layer on baking sheet and sprinkle with a little sea or kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Roast 15 to 20 minutes, flipping with spatula to brown evenly.
Try tossing steamed or stir-fried Brussels sprouts in mustard vinaigrette with shredded apple and roasted or candied nuts.
To roast nuts, heat 1 cup walnut or pecan pieces over medium heat in heavy skillet until fragrant. To candy, toss 1 cup walnut or pecan pieces in a mixture of 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 2 teaspoons brown sugar. Add a little salt and cayenne pepper, spread the nuts on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and roast at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.
While the nuts cool, trim the bottoms from 3 cups of sprouts. Discard this trim along with tough, outermost leaves. Slice each remaining sprout in half lengthwise, and steam or stir-fry sprouts until fork tender. Cool. Mix ¼ cup Dijon (or grainy) mustard with ¼ cup rice vinegar (or cider vinegar) and 2 teaspoons sugar (optional). Whisk in ¼ cup canola oil. Grate 2 apples into the sprouts and toss mixture with the roasted or candied nuts and vinaigrette.