Call me Pollyanna (you wouldn’t be the first), but I believe that politicians want to do the right thing, all dogs go to heaven, there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, and that everyone loves Brussels sprouts. Maybe the first three are stretches, but it’s unfathomable to me that anyone could possibly turn up their noses at those nutritious little green gems. Ok, maybe I can understand the nose-turning part, they are a little stinky.
But hold your nose and deal, people. Brussels sprouts are seriously nutritious. They’re in the same family as cabbage, kale, bok choy, and spinach, and they are #8 on the ANDI list – the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, a scoring system that ranks foods according to the nutrients per calorie. Out of a perfect score of 1000, Brussels sprouts are a 672. As a point of comparison, an apple scores 72. McDonald’s French fries? -672. (That’s a lie, I have no idea what their ANDI score is, I made that up and I’m sure Mr. ANDI himself would shutter at the thought of his system being used for French fries.)
So these little baby cabbages have limped along through culinary history being boiled beyond recognition to a mush of bitter, cabbage-y mess by the best of intentioned housewives. Sometime, in the not so distant past, people figured out that they were infinitely more delicious roasted. Or sautéed. Or grilled. Or raw. Pretty much any way other than boiled.
In a rare twist of good tasting things actually being better for you, not only are Brussels sprouts better tasting when they’re cooked over high heat, but they’re also much more nutritious. In addition to turning them to mush, boiling them leaches out lots of the good stuff that makes them such potent little nutrient bombs. Lots of the antioxidants end up boiling away in the water. The best way to cook these babies is high and fast. And whatever you do, don’t overcook them. They should have a little bite to them.
Though they are at the height of their season in early spring, you can usually get them year round. Look for small, dark green Brussels sprouts with tight leaves, and if you can, get them on the stalk. They’ll stay fresh for almost a week, especially if you cut the bottom of the stalk off and store stalk and all in a glass of water in the fridge. If you buy them off the stalk, store them in an open bag in your crisper drawer. Now through Thanksgiving, it seems like the grocery stores are giving them away, usually on the stalk. The smaller the sprout, the sweeter the little guy will be, so avoid the big ones.
Really, my favorite way to eat them is just plain roasted with a little sea salt and olive oil. But if you find the taste a little less than palatable, this recipe might just be the one that changes your mind. It comes together quickly, and is hearty enough to be a one-dish meal. Swap out the chicken stock for vegetable, and leave out the bacon and you have a great little dinner for your vegetarian friends.
Trust me on this one, help me keep my starry-eyed, overly optimistic outlook on life. Make this dish for dinner soon. Then email me and tell me how much you love Brussels sprouts. I promise not to say I told you so. Enjoy!
Brussels Sprouts and White Beans
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Servings: 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side
Time to Prepare: 30 minutes
3 slices bacon, cut in ¼” slices
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons sliced sun dried tomatoes (optional)
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
1 tablespoons butter
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Trim the Brussels sprouts from the stalk, or trim the bottoms off each individual sprout if purchased already cut. Remove any wilted or yellowed leaves, and slice in half, from top to stalk. If you have different sized Brussels sprouts, quarter the larger ones so you have some uniformity in size.
In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon until browned over medium heat. Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and over medium high heat, sauté the Brussels sprouts until they are slightly browned, about 5 minutes. You may need to cook two batches depending on the size of your pan – just add a little extra oil with the second batch. Remove the Brussels sprouts and reserve.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, and add the garlic, bacon, and sun dried tomatoes. Stir continuously for about 1 minute, being careful to not let the garlic burn.
Return the Brussels sprouts to the pan, add the 1 cup of broth. Toss to fully coat, and let the sprouts cook 3-5 minutes longer, until they are bright green, and crisp but tender.
Add the beans and 1 tablespoon butter, and stir, simmering until the butter has melted and the liquid has reduced to a glaze.
Remove from heat and add the grated cheese, stirring to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper.