Bring on the Brussels!
In my experience, well-prepared Brussels Sprouts are a quintessential comfort food, and can be more addictive than crack. These cute little mini cabbages are a staple side dish of most trendy NYC restaurants these days, usually roasted to caramelized perfection and often paired with bacon, shallots or Parmesan cheese for extra crackiness. But the restaurant that wins my vote for best Brussels is Ilili, a Lebanese place in midtown Manhattan, whose sprouts are prepared with mint, fig puree, grapes, walnuts and thick Lebanese yogurt (Labne), creating a dish so flavorful, creamy and indulgent that I can’t imagine it should still be counted among the vegetable food group, let alone be considered good for you. (Apparently other food bloggers have been equally enchanted by this unusual combination; see Amber’s version of the recipe at ‘Worth My Salt,’ but note that she omits the yogurt part, which contributes much of the dish’s characteristic creaminess).
Indeed, it was the Ilili version of my most favoritest cruciferous vegetable that I had in mind this week when Alex came home from the farmer’s market with a gigantic stalk of Brussels Sprouts. Poking around my usual recipe sources, I was most drawn to a few recipes that paired Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts–another seasonal favorite of mine– and decided that this combo could produce a texture and flavor profile reminiscent of the Ilili version without being so presumptuous as to even attempt to recreate it. Don’t be tempted to swap out the butter for olive oil as I almost was; that 1 TBSP really adds a creamy taste and mouthfeel to the final product that justifies its inclusion. Besides, Brussels are so ridiculously healthy (ANDI score=672) that a small touch of butter won’t undo their righteousness, I promise.
Recipe: Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts
(adapted from Epicurious, serves 4)
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
1 lb Brussels Sprouts, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup heavy cream (naughty) OR 1/3 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt (nice)
2/3 cup roasted chestnuts in a jar, chopped or crumbled
- In a deep, heavy 12″ skillet or wok on high heat, bring butter, salt and 1/2 cup water to a boil.
- Add Brussels Sprouts and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until tender but crisp, about 6-8 minutes.
- Remove lid and continue to cook on medium/high high until water evaporates and sprouts start to brown.
- Add cream (or Greek Yogurt), remaining 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil.
- Add chestnuts, reduce heat and simmer until heated through and flavors well blended.
- Taste for salt and add as needed.
Approximate nutrition info per serving- Heavy Cream version: 160 calories, 17g carbohydrate (of which 3g are fiber), 9g fat, 4g protein.
Approximate nutrition info per serving- Greek Yogurt version: 120 calories, 18g carbohydrate (of which 3g are fiber), 4g fat, 5g protein.
Benefits of Brussels Sprouts
I’ve written previously about the benefits of vegetables in the Cruciferous family (click here for a reminder), and Brussels Sprouts are a standout within the clan as having among the highest levels of the cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates. In addition to these important health-promoting compounds, a 1 cup serving of cooked Brussels contains about:
- 55 calories
- 270% of the daily value for bone-and-blood-building Vitamin K
- 160% of the daily value for Vitamin C
- almost a quarter of your daily folate and Vitamin A needs
- a hefty 4g of cholesterol-lowering fiber
- and, as a bonus, this same serving contains an impressive amount of heart-health-promoting omega-3 fats–about 10% of the daily value–which we tend not to associate with foods other than fish and flaxseeds.