Don’t be a caveman; eat your Brussels sprouts

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“We kids feared many things in those days – werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School – but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts.” Dave Barry

I have a new love affair and I’m willing to admit it, right here in the local paper. I’m in love with Brussels sprouts. Yup, those terribly misunderstood veggies that either you love or hate. (There is a reason for that which I will get to.) I’m here to stand on my soap box and sing about them.

Okay, let’s start with a story about Brussels sprouts. They have about as clouded of a history as they do a reputation but it is a widely accepted truth that they were cultivated from the great mother cabbage. In fact, all brassicas, like broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, and cauliflower are descendants from the venerable cabbage.

People took the cabbage and bred it into umpteen million different kinds of leafy greens and brassicas. You see, the cabbage used to be very important crop to the world due to its high nutritional content, great winter storage and its ability to grow in crappy soil and weird and cold conditions. For many years, in many places, the cabb

age is what kept the human race going nutritionally. It is not a coincidence that just about every culture in the world has a recipe for some sort of pickled cabbage, you know like sauerkraut, kim chee, suan cai, etc.

Somewhere around the 5th, 13th, 15th 17th or 18th century Brussels sprouts were birthed in Northern Europe, most likely in Brussels. No one really knows. It is figured that they were cultivated to avoid freezing like regular cabbages do in the Northern climates. Their small buds on a stock grow faster and so get harvested quicker. They are basically a fast growing “mini me” of the cabbage.

This cruciferous vegetable contains 2-3 times the amount of phytonutrients called glucosinolates than are found in any other brassica. This chemical boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. (It is interesting to note that Brussels sprouts grow in a double helix pattern like DNA.) And that is a reason to love Brussels sprouts.

My favorite breakfast is brussels sprouts with eggs. Nom nom

My favorite breakfast is brussels sprouts with eggs. Nom nom

The reason to hate them is that there is another beneficial cancer blocking chemical, phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), which is either bitter or tasteless depending on one’s genetic makeup. This gene has been linked back to our Neanderthal ancestors who were wired with this gene that “bitter equals poison.” Oddly enough Homo sapiens with no Neanderthal genes in them do not taste PTC, so if Brussels sprouts taste bad to you, you are a caveman. Now you know.

There are some ways to make sure Brussels sprouts taste good no matter what your gene pool is. First, make sure that they are very fresh. Brussels Sprouts grow on stocks and sometimes you will find them artfully so at a grocery store. This is the way to buy them if possible because they are most likely fresh. (I found some at Manzainta Fresh Foods this way. Happy day!) If they are sold loose, inspect them carefully to see if they are dry or have yellow or discolored leaves. That is a sign they are fairly old and leave them like a caveman would.

Second, it is very important how you cook them. Do not boil them as you will lose many of their dynamite nutrients and they taste awful. Cooking them by dry heat methods like roasting, sautéing, and even grilling is best. Water leeches flavor as well as nutrients and cannot produce the intensity of flavor that dry heat methods can. Whatever way you cook them, DO NOT OVERCOOK THEM!! That is the sure fire way to kill Brussels sprouts and give your children nightmares.

Indisputably, Brussels sprouts are most sumptuous when combined with a rich pork product like bacon, prosciutto or pancetta. (What isn’t better with bacon??) This basic recipe that I am humbly offering up here is the perfect way to cook them. I have included many variations on the theme which include bacon, of course. Just don’t overcook them or you will hate them whatever your genes pool is.

Brussels Sprouts on the stalk are the best to buy

Brussels Sprouts on the stalk are the best to buy

Basic Roasted Brussels Sprouts (even a caveman would like)

1 1/2 pounds of Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of cracked pepper

Preheat your campfire (oven) to 400 degrees. Prepare your Brussels sprouts by peeling off the ends and any yellow outer leaves then cutting them into halves. Place them into a bowl and toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Then pour them out into a baking dish and spread them out to a single layer. Roast for 20-30 minutes, on the top shelf of the oven, stirring once during the baking time. You know they are done when they are just getting tender but still bright green in color. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper then serve immediately. (Some people swear by a little extra salt on them)

Variations
Bacon roasted Brussels sprouts
Before you roast the Brussels sprouts, cut up 6 pieces of thick center cut bacon into matchsticks and sauté in a heavy skillet then pour bacon grease and bacon pieces on the Brussels sprouts in the bowl and toss with salt and pepper. (if they seem a bit dry add a tablespoon of olive oil or so) Omit the olive oil and roast the same as the basic recipe.

Bacon walnut cranberry roasted Brussels sprouts
Do the same technique as above but add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts with the bacon and sauté together. Roast like the basic recipe. After the Brussels sprouts have roasted, toss ½ cup of dried cranberries with the sprouts. Perfect holiday side dish with all the bright colors.

Garlic roasted parmesan Brussels sprouts
Do the same technique as the basic roasted Brussels sprouts but add three to six cloves of minced garlic to the sprouts when you toss them with the olive oil. Roast as directed in the basic recipe except half way through the roasting when you stir them, sprinkle them with 2-4 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese. Continue roasting the same as the basic recipe.

Comments

  1. Alicia says

    I love Brussel Sprouts but they hate me! Really hard to digest (high on the FODMAP food list) and ferment easily in the gut. Have a few for me with bacon!

  2. Wendi Hall says

    This is great! I have a childhood phobia of Brussels sprouts, but after reading this, I think I will give them another shot! =}

    Thank You! Wendi Hall

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. says

    I love roasting these Brussels sprouts too but my favourite recipe for them that my husband also loves the most is steaming them & then frying 2 chopped shalots & few cloves of garlic in some vegan butter & adding soy cream & reducing it , added black pepper & sea salt. So good too with a lovely organic pork chop & boiled potatoes! Try it! MMMMM!

  4. Jen Fugate (MFP fugaj01) says

    Cooking them tonight! I have not had them in a year or two. I am the only lover of these green goodies in my house. :( I will never stop trying to get the fam to love them. Ha!

  5. slimpalate says

    I absolutely love Brussels sprouts. i roast mine in avocado oil so I don’t impart any flavors over their beautiful flavors. And Avocado oil withstands higher temperatures. But I have one question. Where do you get your Brussels sprouts. Because I cannot seem to find any that are organic anywhere. Honestly Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables but I don’t eat them as often as I would like because I cant find them organic. Do you just buy the non – organic Brussels sprouts or do you grow your own? I’m considering growing my own but I am afraid it would be a huge pain.

    • ziabaki says

      Sometimes it can be a problem to find them organic. I usually find organic ones at our local health food store. I know in Portland Oregon I can get them at Whole foods. Do you have one of those in your area? Try there or a locally owned and source health food store. Good luck and happy new years!

      • slimpalate says

        I can’t seem to find them anywhere organic. Not even Whole Foods. I’ve checked multiple times. Agh how I wish I could find them organic. I might have to end up growing my own.

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