Thursday, November 05, 2009

Brussel Sprouts

I was a terrible eater when I was a kid.  In particular, I ate almost no vegetables at all until I went to college.  I ate tomato sauce, corn on the cob, and lettuce; that was about it.  I was always interested in food, though, and even as I started exploring the different worlds of cuisine and cooking in it took me a long time and many small steps to come to terms with most of the vegetables that I now enjoy and used to abhor.  Sometimes I wonder at my extreme pickiness contrasted with my somewhat adventurous eating now, but it also makes sense in a way: I think I just have a lot of sensitivity towards what I put in my mouth, which has slowly transformed from a source of fear to a place of interest or exploration.  Let’s not explore this psycho-babble anymore, however; what I really want to talk about are brussel sprouts. 


Brussel sprouts were one of the last vegetables to move from the ‘fear’ column into the ‘enjoy’ column, but now they are one of my very favorite things to eat.  They are one of the few vegetables that, done well, will actually distract me from whatever tasty piece of meat or starch is the primary focus of my meal.  I really like them. 


I haven’t really tried cooking them too many ways, because they are so good done very simply.  Browning/caramelizing vegetables in a black iron pan is almost always a sure shot, but brussel sprouts takes the move to another level.  I like to toss them with olive oil and salt and cook them in the pan on low-medium heat for something like a half-hour until they are mildly squishy and nicely browned with even a few crispy bits hanging out.  They get so nutty.  In fact, my other favorite way to cook them sort of takes this nuttiness inherent in these tiny cabbages and squares it: again in the cast-iron pan, toss the brussel sprouts (cut large ones in half) with a pat of butter and some salt, low-medium heat.  When they are maybe halfway there, throw in some pine nuts and let them brown up with the sprouts.  Between the caramelized sprouts, the toasted pine nuts and the browned butter, this is a dish of extreme nuttiness, and one that actually finds me making little irritating noises of pleasure to myself as I chew on them. 


On the farm, these are pretty much the last things that come into our shareroom, as we only distribute them in the last two weeks of our share (tomorrow is our last day of distribution!).  Before harvesting, we break off all of the leaves branching from the central stem, and then we clip them with long pruning shears at the base of the stalk.  We give the whole stalks out, and the actual sprouts are easily snapped off. 


I recommend that everybody go and eat some brussel sprouts. 


Peace and love.