Tres bizarre to downright ugly ...
Have you ever seen brussels sprouts growing in a garden? Very "Little Shop of Horrors" ... Three to four feet tall, a center stalk covered with little knobs of green (the sprouts) and a top knot of big green leaves like a tropical crown. It’s easy to imagine a brontosaurus nibbling on it as some Neolithic Crudités.
I was helping with end of summer harvest at the Ohio sister's patch of garden. M'shell, domestic diva and caterer to small town Ohio's elite, had asked my sister to plant some brussels sprouts. Shell's son Thom and I were armed with a saw to take down the monster stalks. Thom, being highly suspicious about any vegetable that required a saw to bring it down, took some serious convincing that there was anything worth consuming on this gnarled oversize trunk. Had we cut the stalk a few weeks earlier, I suspect the process would have been a little less intimidating for Thom. Not to mention less of a challenge for Shell's formidable skills in the kitchen.
Purchasing fresh, small brussels sprouts is a key to avoiding all the bad reputation that this vegetable suffers from. That, and avoiding both under and over cooking the little critters. Currently I have two favorite ways of approaching brussels sprouts.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
This is as easy as falling off a bar stool. Oops, did I actually write that?
First make sure the brussels sprouts are pretty much the same size. Unless they are baby sized; split or quarter them. Next you need to make a judgment call. If you enjoy that burnt edged flavor of roasted veggies, just toss them with some oil, salt and pepper. Throw them into a hot (450*) oven and pull them out when roasted and tender. At this point, season them further with herbs, lemon or reduced orange juice, roasted garlic or any other inspirations that come over you.
If you like a milder effect, drop the prepped brussels sprouts into salted boiling water for 30 seconds, blanch 'em and shock 'em in ice water. Then roast 'em as described above.
Sauteed Brussels Sprout Leaves
OK, this is my current fave. Not really a recipe, more a jumping off point.
First, clean and core the brussels sprouts and break them up into leaves. Imagine they are tiny heads of iceberg lettuce. By the way, this is a great use of the larger, more mature brussels sprouts. Alternately, shred them thinly on a mandoline or V-Slicer. In either case you should end up with a great product for a stir fry. Combine them with leeks and chestnuts. Or try snow peas, ginger and shredded carrots. It's just an unexpected treatment of an old friend.