Along with their Brassica family cousin, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts have got to be one of the most maligned vegetables in the Western world. The image of a greyish, boiled-to-death, Dickensian Brussels Sprout seems to conjure up everything we think we hate about vegetables … But wait!! When you come right down to it … these little guys just don’t deserve it — it’s all in the prep, folks — done the right way, this green powerhouse can be divine. The first person I ever knew who adored brussels sprouts was my dear high school friend, Julie. I remember watching her dig into a huge bowl of them, straight from her family’s garden, on a drizzly fall day in Maine. At the time I was not yet on the bandwagon and thought she was a bit insane.
I’ve reformed. I don’t recall precisely when or how, but at some point I realized that roasted brussels sprouts are just about as delicious a thing as exists on this Earth. AND good for you! Now I make them frequently as winter comfort food. A touch of bacon doesn’t hurt. But I’ll include an equally delicious vegan option, which I made when I was still a vegetarian. Starting this week, I’ll be featuring recipes that are great additions to holiday dinner tables. This week’s recipe has become a standard at my family’s Thanksgiving. It’s a green vegetable dish that everyone (including the kiddos) actually loves and eats. And it lends itself to variation, depending on where you live and what else you’re serving.
Truth be told, this week I’ve been in need of a little comfort, and I’ve made several pans of this recipe in a few different ways. It also works great with broccoli florets — or a mix of the two. After a week of eating Brussels … I still want more!
BEST-EVER BRUSSELS SPROUTS
- 2 lbs. brussels sprouts (or broccoli florets)
- 6 slices bacon — OR — about 12 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 6 (or more!) cloves garlic, minced
- few tablespoons olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- tamari, soy sauce or Braggs’ Liquid Aminos
- 1/2 cup pecans, sliced almonds, walnuts or pine nuts
- Optional additions to create a more substantial main dish: several cups cubed winter squash or sliced mushrooms (Wild ones elevate this dish to divinity if you can get them.)
- Optional for vegetarians who want something resembling bacon flavor — Lightlife brand Fakin’ Bacon smokey tempeh strips is a great choice
- seeds from a pomegranate for garnish if desired (this is gorgeous on a holiday table!)
Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sprouts by slicing off the tough stem ends. If they are bigger than an inch or so in diameter it’s best to cut them in half for faster cooking time. Slice onion, bacon (or tempeh), sun dried tomato (and any other veggies you’re using). Mince garlic, and throw everything into a 15 x 9 inch pan. If you are adding mushrooms or squash cubes, you may need a slightly larger pan. Drizzle a few tablespoons olive oil over everything — just enough to coat very lightly, especially if you’re using bacon. Now, pop it into the oven, and roast til sprouts are tender when you poke a fork in. Every 15 minutes or so, stir everything with a spatula to cook evenly and prevent sticking. Add more olive oil if needed. In last 5 minutes, add vinegar and tamari to taste, and your nuts. (Pecans or walnuts go great with bacon; almonds or pine nuts work well with sun-dried tomatoes.)