Community Greens

People of all colors discussing evergreen ideas.

Damn Brussels Sprouts

brussels-sproutsHad God said, “Do not eat of the Brussels sprouts,” human history would be very different. Brussels sprouts, ill flavored micro cabbages, were one of the few vegetables I refused to eat as a child so they led to no dinner, many a spanking and bed early. In my house, you ate everything on your plate, no exceptions, and generally we had a green and yellow vegetable with every meal. My mom was into balanced diets long before I knew what they were. Ruth was religious about meals even though as a mostly single parent* she was a much better administrative assistant than a cook. Mom came to cooking later in life, after Grandma passed, and the job suddenly became hers after all those years. Mom had always been groomed for business not work: office not domestics. Grandma had spent too many sad years as a housekeeper.

Dinner was always a meat, a starch and a vegetable, carefully controlled single servings. Second helpings were usually not available, Leftovers were tomorrow’s lunch. We always had desert. Yes, every night – La de da. Generally something fruity or simple like canned fruit cocktail or apple sauce or store bought pound cake. Something that required you serve it in a saucer or on a plate. A piece of fruit was a snack to be had anytime and was not considered desert. Jell-O was a bit more involved. It required cooking, real cooking. I learned early cooking skills making Jell-O. Boiling the water, slowly stirring in the gelatin with a wooden spoon until dissolved, adding ice to quick cool, refrigeration, patience and was rewarded with a wiggly fruit-flavored desert occasionally topped with a small mound of Cool Whip (fake whipped cream).

Mom loved Brussels sprouts. Asparagus too, but we seldom had them. Hollandaise Sauce required cooking skills. That meant we had BS for dinner at least once a month and usually twice. I know now that overcooking, especially boiling, makes veggies very bland grey, removes most of the nutrients or reason to eat vegetables and makes them taste worse than they look. Roasting may have improved the flavor because dousing them with butter, barbecue sauce or one of Heinz 57 flavors did nothing to make them more palatable. So, when I refused to uncharacteristically, eat my vegetables my mother would make good on the various threats and punishments available to parents 40 years ago which I believe are mostly covered by child welfare and criminal statutes today.

I learned early cooking from my Grandmother who knew about staples and cooking generous portions in big pots. Measures were by the spoonful or the handful. Corrections were based on small tastes of the almost finished meal. Grandma knew how to make do with very little and how and when to borrow a cup of sugar. She also knew the taste of the finer leftovers in life. I learned package cooking from my mother. I can read a box better than anyone and I am proud of it. I still collect all my ingredients, group them, and combine the liquids separately from the dry ingredients. Even when I don’t need to, I measure. Dry herbs and spices in the pot early and fresh ones late or sprinkled as a garnish. I learned portion control as a fact of eating and life. Grandma’s gift was cooking and the love of it. Mom’s gift was recipe reading and the exercise of being precise when cooking. I guess I am hybridized not genetically modified.

Tips for cooking Brussels sprouts

1. Brussels sprouts can be cooked using an array of techniques, including boiling, braising, sautéing, steaming, frying and roasting.

2. Before working with Brussels sprouts, blanch them in salted, boiling water to heighten the color and flavor.

3. Roasting Brussels sprouts in the oven with herbs is a simple and great way to add color and crispness to the dish.

4. If you’re looking for a richer, creamier side dish, braise Brussels sprouts with heavy cream and goat cheese.

5. Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Butternut Squash may best represent seasonal flavors and bring out the slight bitterness of the Brussels sprouts.

*No he doesn’t explain “mostly single parent” even though I’ve asked him to several times. He tells me that’s “another subject”. Ed.


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