Eating local, fresh produce is easy in the summer and early fall, but more challenging in the winter months. New England‘s winter produce is mostly root vegetable and cabbages, including the much-maligned Brussels sprouts. If there’s a joke to be told about unappealing food, the punch-line is probably ‘Brussels sprouts.’ When overcooked, Brussels sprouts produce a strong smell and their bitterness comes out; but handled carefully they can be delicious and pack a whole lot of nutrition into their tiny cabbage-like buds.
The buds are rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties. They're also a good source of vitamins A and C, which help fight against such ailments as heart disease, cancer, and cataracts; potassium, which helps lower blood pressure and maybe even cholesterol; folate, which is necessary for normal tissue growth and may protect against cancer, heart disease, and birth defects; iron, necessary for maintaining red blood cell count; fiber, which aids in digestion and helps lower cholesterol
A half cup of cooked Brussels sprouts is only 30 calories and has 2.0 grams of fiber, 2.0 grams of protein, 0.4 gram of fat, 16 milligrams of sodium, no cholesterol and more than 80% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
The nutritional benefits mean nothing if the Brussels sprouts don’t make it past the diner’s nose and taste buds. This treatment balances saltiness, acidity and sweetness to make them more than palatable:
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, rinsed, loose leaves removed, ends trimmed, halved
2 slices of bacon, chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Blanch Brussels sprouts in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 5 minutes. In a sauté pan or cast iron skillet, cook bacon with lemon zest until bacon is crispy. Drain Brussels sprouts and add to sauté pan with bacon. Add garlic and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. I like to turn each sprout half so that the cut side makes contact with the pan and browns a bit. Mix honey and lemon juice together and toss with Brussels sprouts just before serving.