What to buy now: Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are one of the most unloved veggies; 69 percent of Americans rarely or never eat them, according to a Consumer Reports National Research Center survey. But don’t’ let their appearance fool you. These sprouts are superfood. They’re loaded with antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, K, and folate. And they pack fiber, potassium, and iron for only about 30 calories for a half cup.

They’re also delicious and won’t even stink up the house – if you don’t’ overcook them. If you’re steaming them whole, start taste-testing at about 4 minutes; they should be tender to the bite. Roasting takes about 25 minutes.

Here’s chef’s secret: Depending on how they’re cooked, – steamed, oven roasted, stewed, or braised in a liquid – they take on different flavors. So if one cooking method doesn’t do it for you, try another before you give up on these nutritious nuggets. Roasting brings out a nutty flavor in the sprouts; to punch it up even more, dress them with hazelnut or walnut oil.

Steamed sprouts taste more like delicate cabbages; drizzle with an Asian-style dressing of sesame oil, soy sauce, and grated fresh ginger. For a heartier, stew- like flavor, try braising sprouts in broth with carrots, pearl onions, and roasted chestnuts. They can even be served raw: Separate the leaves, cut them into thin strips, and toss with a dressing to make a refreshingly different slaw. Here are more tips to bring out their best:

Shop like a pro. Look for tightly closed heads with bright-green color and no yellowing or browning. You may find them sold on the stalk; just cut off the heads with a paring knife.
Size them right. Smaller heads are sweeter and more tender, but if you want to use the leaves alone, bigger heads are easier to work with and faster to prep.

Prep like a pro. Always wash them well and remove and discard any brown or stiff outer leaves. If you’re going to steam, braise, or roast Brussels sprouts, trim the bottom of the stem end, then use a small sharp knife to cut an X into the base so that they will cook faster and more evenly.

Store them right
. You can keep Brussels sprouts in their original container or in a plastic bag for up to a week in your fridge’s veggie crisper.

Chef’s trick: Add cheese and nuts

Serve crispy Brussels sprouts leaves with cheese and almonds as an appetizer: Cut the base off each sprout; separate leaves as you go. Wash and dry leaves in a salad spinner until totally dry. Toss lightly with olive oil and salt and pepper, spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 375 ºF for 15 minutes or until leaves start to brown. Bring to room temperature, then toss leaves with a little lemon juice, shaved Parmesan cheese, and chopped Marcona almonds.

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