Sprouts of Ill Repute

The dark parts are the good parts.

I hated Brussels sprouts growing up. I mean hated them, more than just about any other vegetable. Like many things I thought I hated growing up, however — like feminism, so-called “bleeding heart” values and “slutty” behavior — this had everything to do with how they were presented to me. My mom basically boiled all of the taste out of them, smothered them with Parkay, and called it a day. For some reason my father loved them this way, but I found them inedible. They would sit, sad and cold and oleaginous on my plate, long after dinner was over, waiting for me to choke them down with some water so I could leave the table. If you had told me then that I’d be popping them compulsively like french fries at a local restaurant’s happy hour one day, I would have looked at you as if you had just sprouted a tiny cabbage between your ears.

The caramelization process accomplished in roasting is the sort of alchemy that transforms these unassuming mini-cabbages into much sexier, crispy-sweet-savory bites of pizazz. Balsamic affords them some tangy-sweet zip and cashew “parmesan” supplies that extra little nutty-creamy-salty finish. This is not your momma’s vegetable, something you down as a duty. These sprouts are fun and zesty and a little bit slutty.

They were being sold by the bushel at Sprouts (appropriately!) this week, so here’s my take on that aforementioned restaurant’s crowd-pleasing recipe. (I tend to improvise amounts, so measurements are approximate.)

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

  • About 1 1/2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste (I use about 4 twists)
  • 1-2 T balsamic vinegar (enough to dress the batch)
  • About 2 T Nut Cheese Topping, or to taste

Preheat the over to 425 degrees F. After washing the Brussels sprouts, cut off the tough end part of the stem, pull off any loose or dirty outer leaves, and slice them in half. Combine the olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, and toss with the sprouts. Place the sprouts cut side down on a baking sheet and bake them for about 20 minutes, then flip them over and bake another 15-20 minutes or so, until nicely caramelized and crispy outside. Toss them piping hot with the balsamic vinegar and then sprinkle them with the cashew “cheese” before serving. In the unlikely event that you have leftovers, re-roast them on a baking sheet rather than microwaving them to heat them up.

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