Initially I wanted to talk only about Brussels sprouts in this post, those cute mini cabbages from the impressive list of Brassicacaea, which are all so very good for us.
My first exposure to these little, emerald spheres was at an early age, probably through a Green Giant commercial on television. Did you know Brussels sprouts are one of the most disliked vegetable amongst children? Our mother, Mary, did not care for them either. In fact, she so disliked two members of this family of veggies, Brussel sprouts & (surprise, surprise… )parsnips, as children we never had either of them on our table. Unlike other kids, I did not have to worry about finding places to stash mine in order to avoid eating them. While Mary disliked parsnips and Brussels, she loved their other relatives; cabbages, rutabagas, turnips, radishes, broccoli and cauliflower, yep, all relatives or cultivars of cruciferous vegetables. I don’t think she was aware that collards & kale are also related. Alternatively, she may not have even known that they existed, as we lived in New Jersey and her family was from Ireland, so there was no exposure to such “greens”. It seems she instinctually knew for some reason these were healthy foods, but I’m just not sure why.
Brussels sprouts are available in time for our holiday tables and actually taste better if harvested after a good, hard frost. They are packed with the same powerful antioxidants which cruciferous veggies are known for. They are tiny globes of Vitamin A, C, K, folate and fiber, although they are most known for their bitterness, especially if overcooked.
One question which comes up, is whether it is this bitterness which indicates the health benefits of such vegetables? Cruciferous vegetables contain Glucosinolates and one in particular known as Sinigrin, present in Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, is thought to be the cause of the bitterness . Glucosinolates are the chemical starting points for certain cancer-protective phytonutrients. Another question concerning these compounds is the possibility of interfering with thyroid function. This may be a concern for some when consuming vast quantities of (especially raw) cruciferous vegetables, however evidence suggests this is not a problem for Brussels sprouts in particular. Roasting the sprouts seems to help eliminate some of the bitterness, as does pairing with fruit.
I can’t remember when I developed my taste for Brussels sprouts, but regardless, I married a man who did not share my love for them, until I prepared them with walnuts and orange zest. We know that adding a little sweetness can counter act the bitter taste and the healthy fat from the walnuts aids in absorption of nutrients. Now I can’t stop his cravings for them! He seeks them out and prepares them himself which is how this post came to fruition. While contemplating the possibilities for a December submission, I was torn over several ideas until David brought home some Brussels sprouts after he had been away on a long business trip devoid of vegetables. He was having a craving. He was away over Thanksgiving when I prepared the (in)famous dish and could not wait until Christmas so he will be making some roasted sprouts with orange and walnuts tonight. But alas, I have a brand new and different idea for the Holiday sprouts!
|I believe they are talking to each other! Does anyone know of a story about a pomegranate and a frog????|
In our kitchen we have a stained glass window, dated 1875, which features pomegranates (and a frog). I love pomegranates for their exotic appearance, the flavor, the color and the nutritional content. Originally from Persia, they have been used in culinary applications since ancient times. The source for Grenadine- a reduced concentration of pomegranate juice and the inspiration for the name of a weapon, the grenade! They are in season from September through February which overlaps with Brussels sprouts season. I like to keep a few in a bowl on the windowsill of the stained glass panel which is where David’s stash of Brussels had been placed. We use the seeds from these “love apples” in salads, and smoothies, etc.
|Getting seeded the old way - in a water bath!!|
The pomegranate has long been identified as a symbol of health, fertility and eternal life however recent studies show the phytonutrients found only in pomegranates called punicalagins benefit our hearts and blood vessels. Punicalagins are responsible for the pomegranate's antioxidant and health benefits, plus may make them responsible for lowering cholesterol and protecting arteries. After falling asleep with all these thoughts bouncing around in my head, I woke in the middle of the night with this tremendous drive to pair the Brussels and Pomegranate together! It was as though the two conspired on the counter and spoke to me subliminally, encouraging me to connect them! WOW! Two super-foods in a never-before seen (at least in my kitchen) combination! SO here we have it; two powerful ‘superfoods’ together in a delicious Holiday dish.
BTW, I now prefer my sprouts RAW after having a shaved-sprout-slaw salad at two of our area’s great restaurants. Both The Gothic in Belfast and Comida Latin Kitchen in Camden have served fabulous shaved Brussels sprout salads! It had never occurred to me to eat these guys uncooked and boy are they delicious this way! Feel free to try pairing the sprouts and pomegranate seeds uncooked in a salad! Just slice the sprouts very thinly and toss with a honey-vinaigrette or just lemon juice, rice vinegar and pomegranate molasses (another of my must have condiments!)
Be careful not to confuse drinking vast quantities of pomegranate juice with eating the healthy seeds, especially paired with the sprouts in this dish. Pomegranate juice has a high sugar content and the health risks could outweigh benefits when it comes to the sugar without the fiber! Sláinte!
Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate and Pumpkin Seeds
Serves 4 as a side dish. We had it with roasted multi colored potatoes as our main course for 2.
Oven 425 degrees
1 lb. Brussels Sprouts – cleaned and halved
2 Shallots – 1/4 inch dice (sub ¼ c. diced red onion)
1 c. Pomegranate Seeds (you can buy them already out of the skin) or seeds from about ½ pom*
½ c. pumpkin seeds (feel free to substitute walnuts or any other chopped nut you may enjoy)
Juice and zest of one orange (citrus zests are a great way to trick the palate away from SOS – salt, oil and sugar! Feel free to try lemon and lime zests too! Try to purchase organic citrus if you will be using the peel or wash in a vinegar/water solution)
Pan spray (I use a Misto filled with organic Canola oil which is more stable at high temps. You then also do not have to worry about all those other nasty ingredients sometimes found in pan sprays).
Salt and pepper (optional)
|Sprouts on a silpat!|
1. Place shallots and sprouts cut side down onto a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Lightly spray with pan spray and place in hot oven. Roast for 15 – 20 minutes.
2. While sprouts are roasting, toast pumpkin seeds or nuts be careful not to burn. Zest orange and juice after zesting.
3. When sprouts and shallots begin to brown, remove from oven and toss with ½ of the orange juice, most of the pomegranate seeds and optional salt/pepper. Return to oven for another 5 -10 minutes. Ovens vary so keep an eye on the sprouts. You do not want them to brown too much.
4. When sprouts are nicely browned, remove from oven. Toss with orange zest, pumpkin seeds and remaining pom seeds. If you are serving this on your holiday table, be sure to reserve some of all seeds and zest for garnishing the final dish after you have placed in the serving bowl.
*Seeding a Pomegranate you will need a bowl, wooden spoon and a paring knife
Gently score the pomegranate skin around the circumference.
Separate the two halves of the fruit to expose the seeds inside.
Hold ½ of fruit in the palm of your hand, cut half down, over the bowl
Using the other hand, beat the outside of the pomegranate with the back of the wooden spoon several times and allow the seeds to drop into the bowl.
Discard skin and membranes. There you have it!
Watch the video demonstration of this right HERE!