Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts were strangely my childhood favorite. While most children at age four were screaming for chicken nuggets or pizza, I was screaming for brussels sprouts. Even now, I still love the delicate flavor and tantalizing taste. And, of course, brussels sprouts are just so cute (loving Cabbage Patch Dolls as a girl has surely contributed to this adoration).

I was fascinated to know that these beautiful green vegetables actually grow on a very large stalk (2 to 4 feet in height!) and are not baby cabbages at all – but a breed of wild cabbage grown for its small size at maturity. Brussels sprouts are typically 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter, and grow like buds in a spiral. In addition to their adorable miniature cabbage appearance, brussels sprouts are also known for their high fiber content.

Growing up, I learned that there are many ways to cook these amazing greens – some even better than mom’s simple steaming technique. For instance, when I worked at Michael’s restaurant in Santa Monica, I learned that if you shave the sprouts into shreds on a mandoline – and sauté them with tiny carrots and a little white wine – they are a perfect addition to pork tenderloin. The AOC (another great Los Angeles restaurant) version is to add a touch of balsamic to the mix. That method makes them taste better than candy.

And then there is the traditional steaming way of preparing brussels sprouts. Cut them in half or in quarters, and them simply steam them, perhaps drizzling a little butter or olive oil on top before serving. Really, you can’t go wrong. Any way you slice it, the brussels sprout is a perfect side to almost any dish.

Happy Cooking!

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