Five Ways to Eat Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts ready for harvest
Brussels Sprouts ready for harvest Wikimedia Commons

Yes, I said "eat" and "Brussels sprouts." Oh, stop making that face...

Properly prepared, these tiny brassica plants can be a real treat—and they're nutritionally noble (low-cal and fat-free, yet just a handful will provide all the vitamin C you need for the day, plus several grams of protein and fiber). They may even help prevent cancer!

Forget about frozen, which in my experience are inevitably mushy. Look for fresh, locally grown sprouts—still on the stalk is best—with tightly closed leaves. Wash and trim them only when you're ready to cook them. That's cook...NOT OVERCOOK. Got that?

In fact, less cooking could mean less of that sulfurous stink associated with Brussels sprouts. For these and other cruciferous vegetables with high levels of sulfurous compounds, the book "The Science of Good Food" recommends "quick, high-heat cooking methods," or blanching the veggies in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds before more extended cooking.

Here are a few ways to get acquainted with the little green guys:

1) Sweet and sour: Brussels sprouts pair nicely with citrus and other tangy flavors like lemon and vermouth, cranberry and balsamic vinegar, or ginger and orange.

2) Spicy: Vegan for the People uses Moroccan spices to dress up Brussels sprouts. For non-vegetarians, there's Eating Well's bacon-horseradish Brussels sprouts, or this Delicious Days recipe that bakes sprouts with pancetta, bread crumbs, and red chili. And while Momofuku chef David Chang's spicy sprouts recipe looks a bit too complicated for me, I'm intrigued by the inclusion of Rice Krispies!

3) Maple-y. Is there anything maple can't do? It tastes good on everything from to squash to snow! Try Food and Wine's maple-roasted Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, the Zesty Cook's figged and maple Brussels sprouts, or Mollie Katzen's braised Brussels sprouts in maple-mustard glaze. I also love these shredded Brussels sprouts with apples and a touch of maple.

4) Creamy. Okay, it's not very healthy, but I trust food writer Molly Wizenberg's (a.k.a. Orangette) taste, and she calls this recipe for sprouts braised in heavy cream "the best thing since Brussels sprouts." You'll find more sprouts and cream in her recipe for fettuccine with pine nuts.

5) Nearly Naked: This is my personal favorite; simply cut the sprouts in half and cook them in a skillet (lid on and low heat at first, to steam them into tenderness; then lid off with higher heat to brown the bottoms) in a bit of olive oil or butter. Add salt and pepper, and perhaps a sprinkle of Parmesan. Yum.

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