Photos by Zachary Cross
As a child I loved Brussels sprouts. I don’t mean I loved eating them. I’m pretty sure I refused to try them, and unfortunately that’s the culinary story of my childhood. I loved playing with them in my dad’s huge garden, peeling the tiny cabbages down to their core.
Have you ever seen Brussels sprouts growing? They are pretty comical, a tall plant with the little “sprouts” all along the stalk, sometimes with leaves only on top. Not unlike a tiny palmetto tree in shape. Sometimes farmers bring the sprouts to market on the stems, sometimes off.
As you might expect from their cabbage shape Brussels sprouts are yet another member of the brassica family. Although they can be steamed or boiled, their relatively large surface area to size ratio makes them a fabulous candidate for caramelizing, either by sautéeing or roasting. Roasting means less work, in my opinion, as you just put them in the oven and stir once during cooking.
I recently tried Brussels roasted with grapes at a party. It was a pretty simple dish with just the sprouts and grapes mixed with olive oil, roasted, and balsamic vinegar added at the end. I had never tried it before and was surprised at the plethora of recipes for it online. Many include thyme or nuts but I preferred the simplicity of just the grapes and Brussels (there were folks with nut allergies at the party). Roasting and caramelizing brings out the natural sweetness of a food. This sweetness was complemented by the grapes, and the texture contrast was good, too.
Martha’s version includes thyme, as do quite a few others. Some recipes call for the grapes to be cut, and others to roast the grapes separately. Save yourself some trouble and keep the grapes whole, the Brussels, too (unless they’re large), and roast them all one the same pan. Do add one more step that many recipes skip: toss your veggies with the seasonings and oil together in a bowl. Yes, it’s more to wash but it distributes the oil and seasonings so much more evenly and thoroughly that it’s worth it. You can wash that bowl pretty quickly while the roasting is happening.
Although red grapes are recommended for this recipe, it’s because of their looks, not taste. I had some of both red and green and used both. The green grapes end up looking like the sprouts once cooked, size and color wise - not a bad thing. The ratio of sprouts to grapes also varies in each recipe. Work with what you have and what seems good to you. I went with Martha’s ratio of about equal amounts by weight. A higher ratio of grapes might encourage a sprouts-shy kid while fewer grapes would be more appropriate for someone with less of a sweet tooth. And add nuts if you love them. Suggested nuts are walnuts, pecans, or almonds. Large pieces are preferable over small. Add nuts near the end of cooking if you only have small bits.
Finally, I added the vinegar near the end of cooking and put the pan back in the oven long enough for the dish to brown a little more. If you’re not cooking for vegetarians try adding some bacon.
Adapted from Foodie with Family
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