Lightly steamed Brussels sprouts are perfect with a lemon-butter sauce, or you can simmer them with chopped celery until tender and then fold them into a cheese sauce.
If all of this sounds too rich, cooked and cooled Brussels sprouts can be halved or quartered and simply added to a tossed green salad.
Brussels sprouts are a biennial grown as a cool-season annual. They survive winter snows to push their final harvest of miniature cabbage-like sprouts in spring. You will find them at your farm market now.
The Brussels sprout is a leggy, thick stalked plant that grows 36 to 48 inches (90-122 cm) tall with large, broad leaves. In the axils of the plant’s lower leaves cabbage-shaped buds called sprouts or heads form. Each bud grows from ½ to 1½ inches (1.3-3.8 cm) in diameter.
Brussels sprouts can be divided into early, midseason, and late varieties. Early varieties are harvested in mid-fall; midseason varieties are harvested from mid-fall through mid-winter; and late varieties are harvested from mid-winter to early spring. Late or spring varieties yield the largest number of sprouts.
Two well-known and sweet-tasting varieties are ‘Oliver’ which produces large buds, and ‘Rubine Red’ which produces red buds below purple leaves.
Brussels sprouts are related to a wild variety of cabbage that originated near the Mediterranean. They are named after the city of Brussels in Belgium where they were improved through cultivation at the beginning of the nineteenth century. They were recognized by the king of Belgium as the official green of that country in 1820.
Choose. Select Brussels sprouts with small, firm, compact heads that are bright green.
Choose sprouts that are well formed and about 1 to 1½ inches (25-38 mm) in diameter, nearly the same size so that they will cook evenly. The smaller the sprouts the more tender they will be in the kitchen. Avoid Brussels sprouts that are puffy, wilted or yellow.
Young leaves found growing between sprout head may be eaten as greens.
Store. Brussels sprouts will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. The longer they are refrigerated the stronger their flavor. You can freeze Brussels sprouts (after blanching) for up to 4 months. Do not wash Brussels sprouts until you are ready to use them.
Prepare. To prepare Brussels sprouts for cooking, remove the stems and loose yellow leaves then wash the sprouts under running water or soak them for 15 minutes in lemon or vinegar water to get rid of hidden insects.
Cooking. Simmer Brussels sprouts for 5 to 10 minutes in an uncovered container to allow gases to escape; Steam them for 10 to 20 minutes, again removing the pot lid to allow gases to escape; Stir-fry just long enough to make tender; Sauté for about 10 minutes; Pan-fry or deep-fat-fry in a wet batter until the crust is golden brown.
Before cooking, cut an X in each stem so that the sprouts cook evenly. A light cooking will preserve the sprout’s delicate taste.
Serve. Brussels sprouts are only eaten cooked. They can be steamed, simmered, boiled, baked, pan-fried, stir-fried, puréed, or sautéed.
Steam or boil Brussels sprouts briskly until they are tender. Cooked young sprouts should be slightly crunchy. Overcooked sprouts will be mushy.
Serve Brussels sprouts as a vegetable side dish on their own or with butter or a béchamel sauce. They can also be served au gratin or added to soups, stews, or stir-fries. Brussels sprouts can be puréed with potatoes.
Toss cooked and cooled Brussels sprouts with diced tomatoes and a vinaigrette and serve on a bed of greens.
Mix cooked sprouts with cooked chestnuts and butter or with almonds and sour cream.
Braise sprouts, onions, and mushrooms in bacon fat then top with grated cheese and crumbled bacon.
Cook sprouts until tender; roll them in seasoned flour; then roll them again in a beaten egg and again in bread crumbs; finally fry the sprouts in deep fat until golden brown.
Flavor partners. Brussels sprouts have a flavor affinity for almonds, bacon, braised chestnuts, butter, chestnuts, chicken stock, cream sauces, and shallots.
Season Brussels sprouts with salt, pepper, onion, dill, oregano, marjoram, mint, allspice, nutmeg, mace, fennel, savory, celery seed, cloves, caraway, sesame seed, mustard, sage, or thyme.
Serve them alone or topped with plain for flavored butter or margarine, vinegar or vinaigrette dressing, plain or flavored mayonnaise, sour cream, plain yogurt, white sauce, stewed tomatoes, bacon or ham.
Nutrition. Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin C and A and contain potassium, iron and fiber. Six cooked sprouts contain more than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Six sprouts contain 36 calories.
The botanical name for Brussels sprouts is Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera.