Brussels sprouts are a member of the Brassica family and related to cabbage, broccoli and kale. Named after the city of Brussels in Belgium, where they were most likely first cultivated, they are the most recently domesticated cabbage crop, having come into existence less than 500 years ago. The little "cabbage" buds you see are actually stunted leaves of the plant, which also produces larger leaves with large stems that somewhat resemble collards. The sprouts first form at the bottom of the plant and continue forming toward the top for several weeks. Brussels sprouts are available in the Northeast in late fall, where they're said to be sweetest after a good, stiff frost.
* When you receive the sprouts still attached to the stalk, cut or snap them off. When stored in a paper bag in a fridge drawer, they will keep one to two weeks.
* To prepare, remove the first layer of leaves from each sprout and soak or rinse in warm water to flush out unwanted dirt and critters. You can cut an "X" in the bottom core of each to help the core cook faster and avoid overcooking the outer leaves.
* To cook, boil or steam for about 4 minutes, or until tender. You can also cut into quarters to use in casseroles, stir-fries and soups. Good taste combinations include balsamic vinegar, garlic, onions, dill and nutmeg.
RECIPE of the week:
Balsamic & Cranberries
* 3 pounds Brussels sprouts
* 1/2 cup grapeseed or olive oil
* Sea salt or kosher salt
* Fresh peppercorns
* 1 cup sugar or 1/4 cup agave syrup
* 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
* 1 cup dried cranberries
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Trim/clean Brussels sprouts, then cut in half if desired (or you can leave them whole). Arrange on two baking sheets and toss with oil. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper and roast until brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
3. Combine the balsamic vinegar and sugar or agave in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and reduce until very thick, about 15-20 minutes.
4. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the roasted sprouts and sprinkle on the dried cranberries.