The Belles of Belgium

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Here in the Hamptons, the hottest thing on the restaurant menus at the moment are Brussels Sprouts. They are beautifully plated, delicious, and only around (fresh) from fall ’til mid-winter. Part of the brassica family (along with broccoli, cauliflower and kale), Brussels Sprouts look like doll-sized cabbages. Originally cultivated in ancient Rome, Brussels Sprouts were popularly grown in Belgium as early as the 13th Century and expanded throughout Europe by the 16th Century.

But the most exciting thing about Brussels Sprouts is that they are packed with nutrients that according to Experience Life magazine, “offer a powerful mix of cardiovascular, detox, antioxident and anti-inflammatory support.” They contain an amazing combination of cancer-fighting phytonutrients called glucosinates, are high in fiber (which aids digestion), reduce cholesterol and may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin K and vitamin C, and are a good source for tryptophan and essential omega fatty acids critical to healthy brain functioning. Brussels sprouts may boost DNA repair in cells.

The only problem with Brussels Sprouts is that they can smell like sulfur if overcooked. Here are some tips I grabbed from the chefs at East Hampton Grill to do right by your ‘Sprouts:

Choose Brussels Sprouts that are all green and tightly wrapped; yellowish leaves mean they are not as fresh. Just before you cook them, rinse them in cold water. Pull off the outer leaves and trim off the stem. Cut an X in the thick base to let heat penetrate. Boiling and steaming are not ideal and often lead to overcooking. Here are some ways to prepare Brussels Sprouts:

 

  • You can roast them in a 400-450° oven with olive oil and drizzled balsamic vinegar stirring occasionally until they become carmelized.
  • You can sauté them with garlic, onion and pancetta (or turkey bacon!) and sprinkle some pecans or hazelnuts on top.
  • Or you can sauté them first, then braise them in chicken broth or white wine for 5-7 minutes.

There are many wonderful recipes online that add additional vegetables, pine nuts, cranberries and sweet potatoes. Widely grown in California, I have seen Brussels Sprouts sold on the stalk at our local Trader Joe’s. As with any other food, enjoy them in moderation with a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa, and protein.

With love and music, Gaili

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