I was reading over my first few blog posts and I noticed it’s full of pasta, fried okra and pizza. I’m trying to live healthy and whole here. It’s easy to slip into old habits, I guess. Today, this entry is 100% healthy.
I have a bad history with Brussels sprouts. My mom says I liked them when I was little. I don’t remember that. I do remember that my sister told me they were little, slimy fish heads at dinner one day. I haven’t really eaten them since then. I always see their little slimy lips and eyes just peering at me. Yuck. I know they’re not really little, slimy fish heads, but it still grosses me out.
What Brussels sprouts are is cultivar of cabbage. They are named after Brussels, but the origin is unclear. They were believed to be first grown in Belgium in the late 1500s, though some believe they were enjoyed as early as the 13th century. Brussels sprouts taste similar to cabbage, but are generally more nutritious than cabbage.
Brussels sprouts have twice as much protein, vitamin C and folic acid than cabbage and more vitamin A, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium than cabbage. They also have twice as many calories and 1/3 more carbs than the same serving size of cabbage, but neither has enough to really worry about (cabbage has 17 calories and 4 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup, Brussels sprouts have 28 calories and 6 grams of carbs). Brussels sprouts and cabbage are both high in fiber.
Brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, like broccoli and cabbage, if you eat them steamed or stir-fryed. This is why people claim they have anti-cancer properties. There is some real, randomized study data on the consumption of cruciferous vegetables and cancer risks. The data seems to indicate that there is some decreased risk with daily servings of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. However, boiling or blanching the vegetables destroys the compounds. Raw is the best way to go, but a quick cooking method preserves many of these compounds.
To pick out fresh Brussels sprouts, look for the bright green ones. The brightly colored ones with the fewest brown leaves are best. They should be firm, compact and tightly packed. It’s best to choose sprouts that are similar in size. Avoid any with an odor. I think the smaller ones are better because they require less prep, and taste sweeter.
I have a theory that most people don’t like vegetables because they’ve never had them properly cooked or fresh. It seems that whenever I try something I “hate” at a restaurant with a really good chef, I’m always shocked. I actually like it. People, including myself, don’t like Brussels sprouts because we’re used to the slimy, boiled and nasty type we were served as kids.
Fresh Brussels sprouts taste fresh. They don’t have the bitter taste of the frozen, over-cooked variety. Over-cooking releases the bitter, sulfur compounds, making them less healthy and less delicious. Fresh Brussels sprouts have a sweet, almost buttery taste.
As always, the best way to try a vegetable out to see if you really like it is a plain preparation. Here, I tried roasted Brussels sprouts.
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- About a dozen Brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Clean the Brussels sprouts well and remove any outer leaves that look brown or yellow. Cut the bottoms off and you can remove the core, if they're bigger. See the photo on the right. The white part in the center is the core of the sprout. Smaller ones have a softer core that is easier to eat. It's tough on larger sprouts, in my experience.
- I like to cut mine into halves or quarters so I get more browning, but you can roast them whole.
- Toss them with a few tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper.
- Arrange the sprouts on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until tender and barely brown.
- Taste them, you can salt again if needed.
Even I like the simplicity of roasted Brussels sprouts, and they don’t look anything like fish heads. Well, maybe a little like a fish head.