I’ve always had a real soft spot for things in miniature. As a child I spent hours decorating and redecorating my dollhouse with tiny little beds covered in itsy-bitsy blankets and even tinier pillows. I opened and closed the door on the thumb-sized cast iron stove and set the table with pinky-sized plates. I loved the details of things that we usually take in at a much larger size now in the palm of my hand.
As an adult, I could buy teeny spoons, forks, and knives all day long for serving with sauces, chutneys, and spreads or miniature sauce dishes for holding tamari and hot Chinese mustard…
So I remember as a child of 7 or 8 taking great interest in Brussels sprouts. Their adorable little form was like one of my favorite vegetables – cabbage – but in miniature. One little sprout would have been just the right size for my dollhouse family to have a feast of cabbage & potatoes.
However, the taste was not quite so delicate. To my young palate, the bold flavor left something to be desired. The boiled Brussels sprouts were much more bitter than their cabbage-y brethren. Some bites were okay, but for the most part the sprouts had a pungent aftertaste that lingered on the back of the tongue like horseradish. I was not a fan.
So whenever people tell me that they don’t like Brussels sprouts, I get it. And then I wonder how they’ve had them prepared. Because boiling Brussels sprouts is doing them no great service. Like so many vegetables, to really bring their inherent sweetness to life, roasting is the best course of action.
Asparagus is lovely steamed, but roasted? I could finish off a platter myself. Steamed broccoli or cauliflower are totally legitimate as sides, but roast them instead and people who tend to not care about eating their vegetables start asking questions about how they can make them at home.
One night several years ago I was making a roasted Brussels sprouts dish from The Vegan Table on the same evening that I was having a dish with roasted apples. Then in a vegetable-version of “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter,” a new favorite dish was formed – Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Apples with Caramelized Onions & Pistachios.
Not only does the roasting cut any bitterness from the Brussels sprouts, the sweetness of apple and caramelized onions evens the playing field, balancing the sprouts’ more pungent flavor with an edge of lightness. If I could only have Brussels sprouts one way for the rest of my life, this is how I would have them.
I have been tweaking the dish ever since and serving it at holiday gatherings or during the summer when Brussels sprouts are in season. It also pairs really nicely with creamy polenta (minus the sun-dried tomatoes) and Field Roast breakfast sausages or apple sage sausages, browned in a skillet.
So whether you are a long-time Brussels sprout aficionado or confirmed sprout hater from way back, I encourage you to give them a try with the sweetness of apple and nuttiness of pistachios and see if it might change your mind…
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