Some vegetables are magnets for abuse, and Brussels sprouts have received more than their share. But somehow over the last couple of years, this sometimes-funky little vegetable has become the darling of the gastropub movement.
It shouldn't be a surprise, because, given proper respect, Brussels sprouts are one of the finest cool-weather vegetables. Cooked properly, they have all the delicate sweetness of great cabbage, but with a more complex vegetable flavor. If you really want to stun people, use Brussels sprouts as a centerpiece -- they come dozens to a single thick stalk, looking like a vegetable from Mars.
How to choose: Select Brussels sprouts that are vivid green and tightly closed. As they sit, the leaves will begin to separate and the edges will yellow. Squeeze the head -- it should be hard enough that there is very little give.
How to store: Brussels sprouts should be refrigerated in a tightly sealed bag.
How to prepare: To get the best out of Brussels sprouts, treat them gently. Start with selection -- the smallest sprouts seem to be the sweetest. Then trim them carefully, removing any outer leaves that look pale or yellow, paring the hard base and cutting an "X" in the bottom to allow the heat to penetrate the tightly bunched leaves. Finally, and most important, cook them briefly -- they should be tender but still have a trace of crispness at the center. Undercook them and the flavor is bland and grassy; overcook them and it's sulfurous. But when you hit that sweet spot (five to seven minutes in a steamer), the colors are vivid and the flavor is complex.
And don't forget -- you'll find plenty more recipes for Brussels sprouts in our new California Cookbook searchable database.