Nutrition 101

Brussels Sprouts Get a Bad Rap

If all you remember from your childhood are mushy, smelly Brussels sprouts, the hesitation to embrace this vegetable is understandable. However, we are not talking about your mother’s overcooked, grayish-green pile of Brussels sprouts anymore. The truth is, when cooked properly, Brussels sprouts can be a sweet, slightly nutty vegetable that is irresistible. And, they can also be enjoyed raw.

Brussels sprouts are really named after Brussels, the capital of Belgium, where they were a popular 16th century crop. Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous family, along with broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, arugula, collard greens, watercress and radishes. The name “cruciferous” comes from a Latin word meaning “cross bearing” because their four petals resemble a cross.

Nutrition-wise, 1 cup of fresh Brussels sprouts contain just 38 calories, 3.3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. Sprouts are rich in vitamin C and contain antioxidants and phyotnutrients that may help lower cancer risk and decrease inflammation. Brussels sprouts are in season in the fall and are frequently found on holiday tables.

How to prep Brussel sprouts before cooking: 

  • As with any vegetable, Brussels sprouts need to be washed. Usually it is fine just rinsing them under lukewarm water to remove the surface dirt. If the Brussels sprouts look like they have dirt between the leafy layers, you may need to soak them a bit.
  • Once rinsed, trim any yellow or brown leaves from the Brussels sprouts. Trim a little bit of the stem off to get a more tender sprout. If too much is taken off the stem, the leaves will not hold together.
  • Once the sprouts are clean and trimmed, the large sprouts need to be cut. If the sprouts are too big, the outside will be overcooked by the time the inside is cooked. Then you will end up with that nasty sulfur smell in your kitchen.
  • It is also important that your Brussels sprout pieces are all the same size, for just the same reasons. If some pieces are much smaller, they'll be overcooked by the time the bigger ones are done! The rule of thumb is: any Brussels sprout that has a diameter much bigger than an inch and a half should be cut in half. If you have a variety of sizes, cut the medium sprouts in half, and the bigger ones in quarters, so that all the pieces are about the same size.

How to cook Brussels sprouts:

  • roasting – once prepped, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in a 400` oven until brown, about 15- 20 minutes. They will be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
  • sautéing – heat a bit of oil, just enough to cover the bottom of a large pan that is big enough to hold the sprouts in a single layer. Add the sprouts to the pan. Make sure the Brussels sprouts pieces are about the same size, and not too big, so they cook quickly and evenly. Cook the sprouts until they are brown, about 15 minutes.
  • steaming – after filling a pot with an inch or two of water, bring to a boil. Place the prepped sprouts in a steaming basket over the boiling water. Cover the pot, allowing a little gap for steam to escape. This will also help to keep the bright green color. Steam until a knife stuck into the stem slides in easily. This may take between 5 – 10 minutes, depending on their size. Check them often so they don’t overcook!
  • boiling – not recommended. They are just bad and will make your kitchen smell like rotten eggs!
  • raw – slice prepared sprouts in half lengthwise. With cut side down, slice into thin rounds. Separate the leaves into shreds with your fingers. These shredded sprouts are delicious in salads. Adding a bit of lemon juice or vinegar will slightly “cook” them. For some additional ways to enjoy Brussels Sprouts, check out Spotlight on Taste.

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