Give Brussels sprouts a chance

On a recent dinner outing with friends, I was pleasantly surprised to see Brussels sprouts on the restaurant menu. I gave the chef points for offering a vegetable that, for the last several years, has been No. 1 on the list of vegetables consumer...

Side or main dish
Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Apples can be served as a side dish or as an entree with meat or tofu and brown rice. Photo by Sue Doeden

On a recent dinner outing with friends, I was pleasantly surprised to see Brussels sprouts on the restaurant menu. I gave the chef points for offering a vegetable that, for the last several years, has been No. 1 on the list of vegetables consumers all over the world dislike the most. I believe those consumers just think they don't care for the little cabbage look-alikes. I'm sure sometime in their past, those people have eaten overcooked, mushy, dull, smelly and bitter-tasting Brussels sprouts. Well-prepared Brussels sprouts can be full of good flavor and wonderful texture.

When others around the table ordered soup or salad to begin the meal, I ordered the caramelized Brussels sprouts. I expected the cruciferous vegetables to be served whole, glazed and slightly sweet. Instead, I was served a plate holding something that looked like hash. It turned out to be heavenly hash. Brussels sprouts looked as though they'd been grated and cooked al dente with something sweet and something sour. The dish was a delightful way to begin my meal.

A cousin to cauliflower, the Brussels sprout is basically a tiny head of cabbage, another of its relatives. Brussels sprouts do in fact get their name from the capital of Belgium, where they've been a popular crop for more than 400 years. Many of the Brussels sprouts we buy in our local supermarkets have been grown in California. During the cool months of our regional growing season, it's always a treat to find the sprouts at a farmers market, still tightly attached to the thick, straight stalk they grew on.

This little vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients. With around 60 calories in one cup of cooked sprouts, you'll get loads of vitamins C, A and E, which provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection. Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamin K and folate and are a good source of dietary fiber.

Have I persuaded you to give Brussels sprouts a chance? If the healthful reasons are not enough for you, another thing to consider is their ease of preparation. You can simply toss them with olive oil and a little sweetener such as maple syrup or honey. Put them on a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle them with salt and roast them in a 400-degree oven for about half an hour. They will be crisp on the outside, sweet and tender on the inside.


Don't boil Brussels sprouts. Not only will you lose some of the nutrients from the sprouts, there is a good chance you will overcook them. Overcooking Brussels sprouts results in the formation of wicked stinky compounds that can make a person decide to dislike the vegetable.

Or you can do what I did. Spend a few minutes with your chef's knife to slice trimmed Brussels sprouts into thin ribbons. Sauté the bright green shreds in a hot pan for just a few minutes, then toss them together with bits of caramelized shallots, garlic and apples that have been sweetened with pure maple syrup. It all takes just one pan.

The result? Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Apples is a warm, flavorful, hearty and satisfying side dish (or salad) this time of year. Slightly sweet, crisp and tender all at once, you'll think stir-fry as you eat. Bits of toasted pecans add more texture and nutty flavor. This delectable vegetable dish can be turned into a meal when you add some cooked meat or sautéed tofu and serve it over cooked brown rice.

Now are you ready to give Brussels sprouts another chance? Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Apples is a recipe that brings out their best flavor while maximizing their beneficial vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants. What's not to love?

Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Apples
1 tart, crisp apple
1 lemon
3/4 pound Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 shallots, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
Black pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Wash apple, remove core and chop into bite-sized pieces. Put apple pieces in a bowl with enough water to cover. Squeeze juice from the lemon and add to water, stirring slightly. Set aside.

Trim Brussels sprouts and rinse with cool water. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise. Cut each half lengthwise into thin slices. Set aside.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt and some pepper. Sauté shallots for about 6 minutes, until tender and golden brown. Add minced garlic and sauté for another minute. Drain chopped apple and add to the pan along with cider vinegar and maple syrup. Cook and stir mixture until apple becomes slightly tender. Transfer mixture in pan to a plate.


Add remaining olive oil to pan and heat. When oil is hot, add prepared Brussels sprouts. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a couple times until some of the ribbons turn brown. Taste the cooked ribbons of sprouts. They are done when they are crisp-tender. Stir in the reserved apple-shallot mixture and stir to heat. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and serve immediately. Serves 4 as a side.

Tips from the cook

--Shop for Brussels sprouts that are firm and heavy for their size. Store them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, squeezing out as much air as you can from the bag. Don't rinse the sprouts until you are ready to use them.

--Shallots can be found in the produce department in grocery stores. Their flavor falls somewhere between garlic and red onion. They are a nice option when you want flavor that is less assertive than onions.

--To turn the side dish of sweet, tart and just-tender ribbons of sprouts into a meal, add some cooked meat or sautéed cubes of extra-firm tofu and serve over cooked brown rice.

Ribbons of sprouts
Use your chef's knife to slice trimmed Brussels sprouts into thin ribbons that can be sautéed and then tossed with shallots, garlic and apples. Photo by Sue Doeden

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