What’s the beautiful dish in the photo? Balsamic Brussels Sprouts, nested in a leaf from the stalk on which they grow. In French this presentation is called “en feuille” (pronounced “on FUY”–think of a very shortened “phooey”). The English translation is “in the leaf” or “in its leaf.”
The Brussels sprouts in this photo were grown at The Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio. But you can look for stalks with leaves at your local farmers market. If the leaves have already been removed, ask the farmer to bring stalks with the leaves intact next time.
In our house, buying a handsome stalk of Brussels sprouts from the farmers market is a rite of fall. But even if you buy the sprouts already trimmed from the supermarket, you can make the delicious Balsamic Brussels Sprouts recipe below.
Using the leaves of cruciferous vegetables for presentation is a free way to add interest to food. Beyond serving as a bowl or plate, the leaves can be torn into a salad not dissimilar to the now-ubiquitous kale (which is also cruciferous), julienned and stir-fried and otherwise cooked.
And of course, you can use the leaves to hold other foods.
Even the stalk of the plant has culinary uses. Use Brussels sprouts stalks as you would use broccoli stalks.
Balsamic Brussels sprouts in a Brussels sprouts leaf. (You should put a plate under yours.) Photo courtesy The Chef’s Garden.
Some people get it into their heads that they should only eat the florets, but the stalks are just as delicious. If you feed those who won’t eat the stalks, slice them into rounds and steam them or sauté them with garlic.
RECIPE: ROASTED BALSAMIC BRUSSELS SPROUTS
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces pancetta, 1/4-inch-diced (substitute turkey bacon)
Sea salt/kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 1/4 cup pine nuts, chopped pecans, dried cranberries, raisins; 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Trim the cores of the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half vertically. Save any loose leaves that fall off and cook them as well.
2. TOSS the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl with the pancetta, olive oil, balsamic, garlic, salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet, place in the oven and roast until deep golden brown (30 to 35 minutes), tossing once during roasting.
3. REMOVE from the oven and toss with the optional ingredients. Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot.
Brussels sprouts on the stalk. Photo © Carole Topalian | Edible Madison. All rights reserved.
ABOUT BRUSSELS SPROUTS
The Brussels sprouts plant (Brassica oleracea) is a beauty: A stalk that grows to about four feet tall, crowned with large, wide graceful leaves. The sprouts, edible buds which resemble tiny heads of cabbage, grow from the bottom of the stalk to the top, in an charming progression from smallest to largest.
If Brussels sprouts look like tiny cabbages, it’s because both are members of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Other members include arugula, bok choy, broccoli and broccoli rabe, cabbage, cauliflower, cress, daikon/radish, horseradish/wasabi, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, rutabaga, tatsoi and turnips.
While they are thought of as a cool weather crop, Brussels sprouts can be found in markets year-round. The peak season is September through February.
Few foods are more unpleasant than overcooked Brussels sprouts. The same is true with other cruciferous members: Excessive heat releases an unpleasant-smelling and -tasting chemical compound. But cook them lightly, and they are bites of pleasure.
Similarly line: Don’t store raw Brussels sprouts for more than a few days. The flavor gets stronger.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS NUTRITION
Brussels sprouts are exceptionally rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, including glucosinolate, a phytochemical and an important cancer-fighting phytonutrient. All cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates, but Brussels sprouts are especially loaded.
They are also cholesterol-fighters. Steamed Brussels sprouts actually have a have better cholesterol-lowering effect than raw brussels sprouts. The plant fibers do a better job of binding when they’ve been steamed.
Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C; one cup provides more than your daily requirement. Vitamin C, along with vitamins A and E, also found in the sprouts, protect the body by trapping harmful free radicals. Brussels sprouts are one of the best vegetable sources for vitamin K, which strengthens bones and helps to prevent, or at least, delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Is there a better reason to eat them often?
MORE BRUSSELS SPROUTS RECIPES
As strange as “Brussels sprouts pizza” sounds, it is delicious. Other cruciferous members, like broccoli and arugula, often find themselves topping a pizza. Consider adding some fresh goat cheese in addition to the mozzarella and tomato sauce.
Or, try these:
Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad
Brussels Sprouts Potato Salad
Buffalo Brussels Sprouts Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Roasted Beets & Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts
Bigger is not better. The most tender sprouts, with the sweetest flavor, are 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
Choose sprouts of similar size so they’ll cook evenly.
When cooking whole sprouts, make a shallow “X” on the bottom. This allows the heat to penetrate more effectively and cook them evenly.