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Brussels sprouts are a tasty fall vegetable with a huge benefit

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A a salad of deconstructed brussels sprouts is nasty and loaded with good stuff your body needs.

A salad of fresh deconstructed brussels sprouts is nasty and loaded with good stuff your body needs. It’s also less work than many garden salads.

One of the most unpopular refrains passed along among generations of parents to their children at mealtime is likely “eat your vegetables, they’re good for you.” Then there’s the reverse bribery, “If you want any dessert, you need to finish your vegetables.” Or the guilt trip, “Your grandmother would have been thankful to have these when she was a child. And finally the ultimate declaration of inherited stubbornness, the threat of a long, lonely evening, “You’re not leaving this table until you finish those vegetables.” And thus the seeds of the generation gap.

Topping the list of least favorite veggies may be brussels sprouts, which often suffer from one of the worst reputations of all vegetables when some well-meaning mom or dad turns from from a beautiful, miniature head of cabbage to a gray, slimy orb of mush.

“If you’ve found this vegetable difficult to love, your experience may have been limited to little soggy, smelly cabbages that have been cooked until mush,” says Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension “Some methods of cooking can create wonderful flavors that bring out the sweet, nutty, buttery flavors of Brussels sprouts. It’s worth giving them another try.”

Brussels sprouts are a member of the cruciferous or Brassica vegetable family, which includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, and others. Although native to the Mediterranean region along with other cabbage species, Brussels sprouts first appeared in northern Europe during the fifth century, later 13th Century near Brussels from which they derived their name. By the way, you are not incorrect if you prefer to call them a “brussel sprout,” although we can’t figure out what a “brussel” might be.

“These vegetables are unique in their rich source of phytonutrients such as sulfur-containing glucosinolates, which form bioactive compounds that assist with cancer prevention. These are also the compounds that impart a pungent aroma and bitter taste,” Duitsman explains, providing abundant antioxidants, including vitamin E.

Brussels sprouts are ranked in the top 20 most nutritious foods according to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI score), which measures vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content in relation to calorie content.

According to USDA, one cup of raw Brussels sprouts provides 38 calories, 0 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein, and provides 195% of vitamin K, 125% of vitamin C, and 10% or more of vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate (B9), potassium and manganese needs for the day.

Choose firm, compact, bright green Brussels sprouts heads, and buy on stalk when possible.

Smaller sprouts will tend to be sweeter, more tender and have a less woody or fibrous taste than larger sprouts.

Remove any damaged or irregular outer leaves and store fresh unwashed sprouts in plastic bags in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. For freshest flavor, refrigerator storage should not exceed a day or two but can last up to one week.

“Overcooking Brussels sprouts will give them a bitter flavor. As a rule, when Brussels sprouts have lost the bright green color, they are overcooked. Depending on size, cooking time should not exceed 7 to 10 minutes if you are steaming, braising or boiling,” said Duitsman.

Select sprouts of similar size for uniform cooking. Large sprouts should be cut in half.

  • For cooking, try these ideas:
  • Add candied walnuts and dried cranberries to roasted sprouts for a festive holiday side dish.
  • Pan-fry sliced Brussels sprouts to get a crunchier texture.
  • Blanch sprouts by boiling water for 5 minutes, followed by an ice bath. Saute with minced garlic. Add fresh lemon juice, Balsamic vinegar, and toss so Brussels sprouts are evenly coated or sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  • Slice raw Brussels sprouts thinly and adds to tossed salad.
  • Roasting Brussels sprouts in the oven will help bring out their best nutty flavor and retain their bright green color. Roast Brussels sprouts at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Toss with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper before roasting. Add minced garlic for even more flavor and health benefits.

Another recommended recipe
Braised Brussels sprouts with Mustard Butter – serves 3-4
Braising is an excellent method for cooking Brussels sprouts. Braising refers to cooking food with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.

  • 1 pound small, firm, bright green Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Peel off any loose or discolored leaves from each Brussels sprout; halve each head lengthwise.
2. Bring the water, butter and Brussels sprouts to a boil in a Dutch oven, 2-quart saucepan or a large deep skillet. Cover and steam over medium-heat until the Brussels sprouts are brightly colored and just tender, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Remove Brussels sprouts from pan. Whisk in mustard with remaining liquid in pan. Stir and make sauce (about 30 seconds).
4. Add sprouts back to pan, coating with the sauce mixture. Saute 1 to 2 more minutes to intensity flavors, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Roast balsamic brussels sprouts
Ingredients 
3 pounds fresh sprouts
2 tablespoons good olive oil
6 shallots
Juice of half a fresh lemon
2 tablespoons good Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt/pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Quarter the Brussels sprouts and toss well with the oil
Sauté the diced shallots in a small non stick pan sprayed with Pam.
Stir shallots into Brussels sprouts.
Spread the brussels sprouts evenly on cookie sheets sprayed with Pam.
Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, but check them every ten minutes and stir them for a more even roast.
Remove and toss with the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and cheese. Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.
(This is also good with six slices of crumbled bacon added at the end….after all, everything is better with bacon! I have a couple of folks who don’t eat meat in my family so I put it on the side for people to sprinkle/garnish as they like).

Kitchen Sink Dressing

  • Ingredients
  • Bulb of garlic cloves
  • 2 pounds of fresh mushrooms (I use a variety like baby portabello, shitaki, and oyster, but regular button mushrooms are fine too)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage (2 or 3 leaves) or 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of hot sauce (I like Cholula)
  • 1 loaf of French bread
  • 1 loaf of sourdough bread
  • 16 to 32 ounces chicken broth (the dressing needs to be pretty wet)
    *This is called “Kitchen Sink” because the ingredients vary based on what’s in the fridge or in the bread drawer. No sourdough bread? No problem! Use 7 grain, whole wheat, etc. I do think it’s better with bread other than the sliced sandwich variety. Have leftover ham? Use that instead of the sausage. I’m putting a cup of leftover rice in mine on Thursday.

The secret is to make sure it is wet and goopy when it goes in oven. That way it won’t be too dry when you serve it. Don’t be afraid of the chicken broth.

The night before, slice and cube the bread and lay out on cookie sheets to dry out. The next day, take the bulb of garlic and slice off the very tops of the cloves, leaving the base of the bulb intact. Place the bulb in the middle of a square of aluminum foil, grind pepper over the top, and drizzle it with olive oil. Seal up the square of foil in a pocket and place in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Take out and let cool. This can also be done the night before.

Put one tablespoon of olive oil in large skillet. Sauté the onion till soft, then add mushrooms. Add a grind of pepper and pinch of salt here. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the bulb into the onion mushroom mixture.

Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl. Add Worcestershire and hot sauce.

Add the egg mixture to the dried bread cubes, and then mix in the mushroom onion mixture.

Next, add chicken broth until the dressing is really wet and goopy. Spray Pam in large casserole dish. Place dressing in a dish and bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and dressing is moist.

For more information on nutrition contact any of these nutrition specialists in southwest Missouri: Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at (417) 881-8909; Lindsey Gordon Stevenson in Barton County at (417) 682-3579; Stephanie Johnson in Howell County at (417) 256-2391 or Mary Sebade in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551. The regional office of the Family Nutrition Education Program is located in Springfield and can be reached at (417) 886-2059. Nutrition information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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