Roasted Red Grapes and Brussels Sprouts
People for some reason have a love-hate relations with brussels sprouts. They either love them or hate them. I was asked by a hostess recently to bring vegetables to a pot luck dinner and was told in no uncertain terms Not to bring brussels sprouts. Why is it I wonder that such a lovely veggie is so maligned. They are beautiful to look at, have significant health benefits, are easy to cook and at least for me, associated with festive dinners around Thanksgiving and Christmas so they are special and celebratory in my mind.
Brussels sprouts are related to broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, all being part of a veggie family known as cruciferous because of the cross-like shape of the flower. I believe they are Roman-Italian in origin (see, they are stylish) and at some point in history migrated to Belgium, hence the Brussels surname. They grow on a stalk, several little balls attached around a thick, tall stalk and in season you can find them still clinging to the stalks in local farmers markets. They don’t come much fresher than that. They mature from the bottom up by the way, so the lower sprouts are usually larger than the ones on top of the stalk. If you want them all even in size you have to buy them off the stalk. Buy them fresh and green with compact leaves. They turn yellow as they age. Check the stem end, it should not be brown and dry, indicating that it’s has been a while since they were removed from the stalk. It’s a good idea to buy them in similar size sprouts if you can as the cooking time will be even. If you buy them in different sizes you may want to even it out by cutting the larger ones in half.
Maybe the problem for brussels sprouts is that people tend to over cook them. You think? I have seen them grey looking and mushy here and there. That’s not their fault, it’s the cook’s fault. Brussels sprout should not be overcooked and retain their lovely bright green colour. When they lose their colour they are overcooked and also lose a significant portion of their nutritional value. The texture should be soft with a bite and the flavour slightly nutty with NOT a hint of sulfur odor or taste (results from overcooking) . Also: don’t cover them when you cook them, at least not for too long. Allow them to breath.
You can steam or boil them whole or cut in half. They are especially delicious roasted and caramelized. I cook them in parchment “en papillote” style alone or with other vegetables and combine them with potatoes, onions, mushrooms, cranberries, chestnuts and more. I offered to bring vegetables to dinner with my friends Anne and Sam (see post about how to celebrate an anniversary) and this time I roasted them with beautiful large seedless grapes. I roasted the grapes first because I didn’t have enough cookware in the kitchen where I was staying, but I have roasted everything together before and it worked fine. They more or less cook at the same time. If the sprouts are ready first you can always remove them and continue to roast the grapes a few more minutes, or vie versa.
The roasted red grapes (use seedless) are a fun thing to make. Their flavours concentrate as they cook and they become slightly shrivelled and delicious (not dry like raisins). I add them to different dishes and the sweetness they bring to the dish is often welcome.
Both brussels sprouts and grapes are at the height of their season now. Get some at your local farmers market and try them. Even if you are in the “hate brussels sprouts camp, open you mind and educate your palate. You’d be better for it.
6 cups brussels sprouts, halved if large, whole if small
2 cups red seedless grapes
1 onion, halved lengthwise and cut in ribbons from root to stem
Olive oil, about 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse Salt
Freshly ground pepper
Depending on the size of your baking pans, cook this in one or two batches.
Line a baking sheet with foil.
Place the grapes on the sheet and drizzle with some of the olive oil to coat.
Sprinkle with 1 ytablespoon sugar and toss to coat all the grapes with the oil and sugar.
Place in 400 degrees oven and roast until grapes begin to shrivel and caramelize.
Remove from oven and scoop out the grapes into a bowl.
Add the brussels sprouts and onion and drizzle with additional oil and the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Toss well to coat everything with the oil and sugar.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Return to oven and roast until brussels sprouts are cooked through, about 15-30 minutes, depending on how fresh they are. The fresher they are the quicker they’ll roast.
Every few minutes check them and stir them around the baking sheet with a long wooden spoon being careful not to burn yourself. The sprouts should be browned and caramelized in spots and tender to the bite when ready.
When they are cooked to your liking remove from oven and add the roasted grapes.
Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot.