From a young age, once I realized that they had very little to do with Cabbage Patch Kids, I paid no attention to Brussels sprouts. Did anyone when they were kids? They popped up at Christmas and Thanksgiving but were pretty easy to ignore. Once I finished cooking school and was working in fine dining, the challenge was to make them delicious (hello bacon, cream, blue cheese, char-grill and sometimes deep fry), and even then it was only for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The general consensus seemed to be that it took all of the most intense/aggressive flavours and techniques to make them edible. You could have subbed just about any veg into one of those recipes back then and it would have tasted close to the same. It wasn’t about celebrating the Brussels sprouts, it was about making them taste like the other stuff. Secret ingredient fail.
Once I switched directions with my cooking, I started exploring healthy foods that I had once taken for granted or avoided altogether because they had a funky reputation. And guess what I realized? Most of them tasted really good if you just showed them some respect and removed all of the riff raff. Like when you take out one of your sister’s kids on their own (the bad one), and suddenly (s)he is lots of fun and well behaved because (s)he has your full attention. (I’m of course not talking about any of my nieces or nephews, they’re all very good ☺)
It’s no secret that most things can shine when given the proper attention and respect. Brussels sprouts have graduated over the last 5 years or so to fall and winter vegetables, not just sad holiday veggies. They’re often found deep-fried, but there are subtle, healthier versions on restaurant menus now too. In fact the recipe this week is a riff off something I had last week at one of my favourite restaurants.
The Brussels sprouts are shaved thin, using a mandoline (carefully), which means that they just need to cook for a few minutes until they turn bright green, keeping a crisp texture and some digestion-aiding enzymes. I have paired them with an ingredient that is a lot sexier than the humble Brussels sprout, but I think the contrast works well (and couldn’t be more seasonal). Chanterelle mushroom season has started in BC in restaurants, markets and if you’re lucky, in your back yard. They are earthy and golden and love the Brussels sprouts in a sweet, non-condescending way.
Do we need to talk about how good Brussels sprouts are for you? It’s kind of always been their biggest selling point. Let’s touch on it just for a second: Brussels sprouts are part of the Cruciferous family and contain numerous cancer-fighting phytochemicals called glucosinolates. They also stimulate liver, stomach and small intestine function. All of that and if you don’t cook the crap out of them, they taste clean and delicious too.
This can be served as a side dish or if you make the parsnip and bean purée with it (highly recommended) it makes a texturally-contrasting, rich in flavour, protein-filled, seasonal main dish.
- 3 c Brussels Sprouts, sliced thinly
- 2 c Chanterelle and/or Oyster other Mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ c Leeks, sliced thinly
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- ½ c Parsley leaves
- ½ c Hazelnuts, chopped
- 1 Rosemary sprig
- 1 tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil & ½ c water
- Sea(weed) Salt
- 300g Parsnips (3 small parsnips), large diced
- 1 c Cooked Great Northern Beans
- 3 Garlic cloves, peeled (optional, roast)
- 1 small Rosemary sprig
- 1-2 c Water
- Sauté the mushrooms with the rosemary on medium heat in the coconut oil and water.
- Once they soften, add the leeks, garlic and a little more water if it has evaporated.
- Once the leeks have softened, add the Brussels sprouts with a splash more water so that they steam.
- Once the Brussels are bright green and tender, add the parsley leaves and hazelnuts.
- Adjust seasoning and remove rosemary sprig.
- Steam the parsnips, garlic cloves and rosemary together until the parsnips are tender (8-10 mins).
- Remove rosemary and purée the rest of the ingredients with the beans, 1 c water and salt in a blender or food processor until very smooth, add more water if necessary.
- Stir in a frying pan over medium heat to heat up.
- Smear purée on the bottom of a plate or past bowl and mound the warm Brussels sprouts mixture on top.