Brussel Sprouts on Stalk
Some time back I realized that there were still mysterious vegetables in the produce section of my local grocery store that I had never tried. They certainly didn’t contain gluten, and they might very well have been amazingly delicious, but I didn’t really know. When I was living in Japan two summers ago, I decided to systematically try all the strange vegetables I’d never prepared before. But yet, in my own country, I was willing to let the brussel sprouts, horseradish, exotic greens, etc. languish on the shelves untested and untried. So, I began my experiments.
I began with recipes for whole roasted brussel sprouts, in which the entire brussel sprout is drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper and then roasted in the oven. I loved the way the outer leaves got crispy and brown, but unfortunately the core of the sprout was mushy and had the infamous “brussel sprout” aroma. According to some sites, that aroma comes from overcooking when sulfur present in the sprout is released. It was pretty good, but the leftovers languished in my refrigerator, unloved and ignored.
Some time later I was browsing one of my favorite gluten free blogs, Gluten Free by the bay and I came across an intriguing recipe where BytheBay (the creative genius behind the site) sliced the sprouts in half, drizzled them with olive oil, seasoned them, and finally roasted them. Wondering if she had found a way around brussel sprout’s persnickety nature, I tried her recipe- and was an instant convert. They were fabulous!
But my adventures with brussel sprouts were far from over. Brussel sprouts, along with artichokes and other delightful vegetables, are grown in Northern California. I only remember these things when I visit my local farmer’s market and discover heirloom delights that are too delicate for the long haul across country. Surprisingly, I was also reminded of the joys of local produce at my local Nob Hill Supermarket when I found something in the produce section that was both incredibly familiar and alien. It was a gorgeous but oversized stalk of brussel sprouts, as yet attached to the stalk they grew on. I couldn’t resist it… and when, a week later, I actually brought myself to slice the little cabbage like sprouts off the stalk, I somehow felt like I had invented the brussel sprout, or at least grown it myself. I followed BytheBay’s recipe, only changing it by adding poultry seasoning instead of sage, because I was out of sage. It was the most delicious brussel sprout dish I’d ever had- it was sweet and nutty, with crispy outer leaves and lightly golden crust on the cut half. The only problem is, now that I’ve had them in season and literally fresh off of the stalk, I don’t know how I can go back to the bitter old sprouts usually found piled up in the Supermarket bins. So, my brussel sprout saga concludes- and I can safely say not only that I have made the acquaintance of a new vegetable, but I have learned its quirks and discovered what, for me, is the perfect way to prepare a much maligned vegetable.