As a child, my favorite vegetables were tomatoes, broccoli, corn, cabbage and spinach. There were a few others that I would eat if they were prepared a certain way. I would only eat peas if my grandmother made them in a big sauce pot filled with spaghetti sauce and cut up hot dogs – I know, I know, sounds strange, but for some reason this was one of my favorite things to eat on a cold day. I loved raw carrots, but hated cooked carrots. I think it was something about the texture. The only way I would eat cooked carrots was in soup or stew – especially my mother’s homemade beef stew. Somehow I was able to dodge eating brussels sprouts. I think my parents just knew how to pick and choose their battles.
I think back to the first time I tried brussels sprouts. I was at a really great restaurant in Portland and they were on the menu – wood oven-roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and apple cider vinaigrette. I had a moment of absolute bravado and ordered them. I think I was feeling truly brave because I also decided to try beets that night. The beets were sautéed with chive butter, so I ordered away! The worst that could happen would be that I wouldn’t like them, right?
The two veggies came to my table steaming hot, the sprouts were still sizzling from the wood oven. I had also ordered a white fish dish so I indulged in that first, but after a few bites my curiosity peeked. I turned to the beets first, plunge my fork into one of the deep red cubes and brought it up to my nose – the scent of the sweet red vegetable and chives reached into my nostrils and woke up my olfactory overload sensors. The smell was divine. As I bit into the vegetable I had no preconceived idea of what it would taste like, but the flavor exploded sweetly over my taste buds. I was hooked!
At this point I figured I might as well dive right into the brussels sprouts. I smelled first – a gentle bouquet of cabbage, bacon, and vinegar. When the sprout first hit my tongue I couldn’t believe that something so green could taste so good. Apparently with bacon and vinegar anything is possible, right? The problem with this idea is that on my way home I stopped at the grocery store and picked up fresh beets and brussels sprouts so I could experiment the following weekend.
I made brussels sprouts three different ways: with bacon and balsamic vinegar, with cheese sauce, and steamed with butter and lemon. No matter how I made them, I loved them. I am now addicted to brussels sprouts. I keep some frozen in my freezer just in case, but definitely prefer fresh. I am even trying to grow my own brussels sprouts this season. I hear that they are a pretty hearty plant, so even someone with my not-so-green thumb may see some success. My next experiment with brussels sprouts is adding them to a Guinness beef stew. I think they would hold up nicely in that treatment.
The beets were a different story – not a bad thing, but definitely more comical. I did not heed the warnings to use gloves while dealing with beets. I sliced them up, par-boiled them, then tossed them with some olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and some fresh herbs. After looking as if I murdered someone, I stained my shirt, a cutting board, and I’m pretty sure my finger tips were pink for a week after, I had some pretty amazing beets to top an arugula and goat cheese salad.
My advice to you is to try some new things by getting into the kitchen and get creative with it. Who knows what you will find that excites your palette!
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
1lb. Brussels sprouts, halved
3 strips thick cut bacon, diced
Preheat oven to 400*F.
In a roasting or half sheet pan, distribute sprouts in an even layer drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle diced bacon around the pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes. Toss the sprouts and drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar every 15 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese when they first come out of the oven. Enjoy.
2 bunches of beets, sliced
Apple Cider Vinegar
Preheat oven to 375*F
Boil the beets until just barely fork tender. Layer on a sheet pan and drizzle with melted butter and vinegar; season them liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with minced chives. Enjoy!