Brussels sprouts could really use a makeover. If you've always thought of them as a slightly stinky vegetable that shows up for holidays, you know what we mean. This lowly sprout needs another name. Let's call them cute little cabbages — "cuties," for short.
Why should we bother? For starters, brussels sprouts are a nutritional powerhouse. A cup contains more than 4 grams of fiber and 94 milligrams of folic acid. They're especially high in vitamins C and K, plus they're a good source of vitamins A, E, B-6, B-1 and B-2, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein and calcium. If that's not enough, cuties also contain bunches of cancer-fighting compounds.
Another little-known fact about brussels sprouts is that they can actually taste great. This is provided they're not overcooked. Cuties are cousins of cabbages, and in the same vein, cook too long and you'll release smelly sulfur compounds.
The best way to avoid overcooking, and the easiest way to deal with brussels sprouts in general, is to buy them frozen. In today's recipe, the frozen sprouts get briefly microwaved, then tossed in a lovely walnut vinaigrette. The result is sweet, fast and definitely cute enough for kids. Their brilliant green color is merely a St. Patrick's Day bonus.
Menu suggestion: Corned beef
Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Walnut Vinaigrette
BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH TOASTED WALNUT VINAIGRETTE
Start to finish: 10 minutes
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 bags (12 ounces each) frozen brussels sprouts (see cook's note)
2 tablespoons walnut oil (see cook's note)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cook's note: For testing purposes, we used Birds Eye Steamfresh baby brussels sprouts. While the bag indicates it contains about 40 sprouts, our bag contained only 19 sprouts, so we used two bags. (The recipe can be cut in half. Just make the full amount of vinaigrette, use half of it with the sprouts and refrigerate the rest for up to a week for a delicious salad dressing.)
If you can't find walnut oil, use 1 tablespoon Asian (dark) sesame oil and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. You also can use all vegetable oil (3 tablespoons). By the way, both walnut and sesame oils can go rancid quickly and should be stored in the refrigerator.
Spread the walnuts on a microwave-safe plate and microwave, uncovered on high, 1 minute at a time, stirring and tossing every 30 seconds, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Microwave the brussels sprouts until just warmed through but not scalding hot, according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, pour all of the oil, lemon juice, sugar and salt in a small jar with a lid. Shake until well combined, and set aside.
Pour the brussels sprouts and walnuts into a serving dish. Shake the dressing to recombine, and pour it on top. Toss well to coat the sprouts and nuts with dressing. Serve at once. (The sprouts should be more or less at warm room temperature.)
Yield: 6 servings. (Leftovers can be reheated gently in the microwave.)
Approximate values per serving: 140 calories (61 percent from fat), 11 g fat (1 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 5 g dietary fiber, 108 mg sodium.
Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap.Fast.Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.desperationdinners.com. © United Feature Syndicate Inc.