This morning I remarked to my husband that summer was over, even here in L.A. My first clue? The sky was a little grey. second clue? I found myself reaching for a sweater for the second time in less than a week. Clue #3? I made brussel sprouts for dinner.
I love brussel sprouts. They’re one of the many formerly “yucky” vegetables that I came to absolutely love during my “vegetarian years”. My vegetarian years, ten of them in all, happened to coincide with my New York years — or, as I teasingly call them, the years when my sophisticated inner self finally found a sophisticated outer world to gallivant around in. In my fancy new world, vegetables weren’t just tossed in a pot to boil. Non. Flavors were built. Techniques were employed.
I became a vegetarian for health reasons, but stuck around for the food. One evening, in the summer between college and law school, I picked up some pork chops from the local A&P. This was aeons ago, back before there was a Whole Foods chicken in everyone’s pot and my pork chops (or was it steak?) were decidedly not grass-fed. I cooked them up, as I must have done many times before, took a bite and thought, “this can’t be what we are meant to eat.” From that moment on — until about ten years later when I suddenly had a craving for a grass-fed, pan-fried steak from, if I remember correctly, the Whole Foods at the corner of Fairfax and Santa Monica in L.A. — I was a vegetarian on her way to becoming a foodie. I threw myself into the project of vegetarian living with the fervor of an Olympic athlete. I made my own yogurt, dropped bricks into the toilet tank (to save water, my vegetarianism, environmentalism and non-toxic living having all gone hand-in-hand). I wandered the Farmers Market each week, buying vegetables I’d never heard of, and vegetables I was certain I loathed. That’s how I ended up with yucky brussel sprouts in my market tote…and discovered that, if you cook them right, they’re really quite divine.
Here’s how I made mine last night:
2 10 oz bags Trader Joe’s Shaved Brussel Sprouts*
3 Tbs olive oil (add up to 3 Tbs more for a truly succulent dish)
1/8 – 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I prefer to go light on the balsamic)
1/2 – 1 cup water
1/2 – 1 tsp brown sugar or agave
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large iron or Le Creuset style skillet over medium-high heat. If you don’t have either type pan, a regular skillet will do, though you should keep a closer eye on things to make sure your veggies don’t burn. Add the brussel sprouts and cook them ‘til they’re lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add the agave or brown sugar, season liberally with the salt and freshly ground pepper, and add the balsamic vinegar and water. Reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid and continue cooking until the brussel sprouts are tender, about 5 or 6 minutes more. Enjoy!
*You can substitute whole brussel sprouts, sliced into rounds with a sharp kitchen knife. Don’t worry if some of the leaves fall apart. Just toss the rounds and the loose leaves into the same pot. The loose leaves may cook up a little browner, which will add a nice depth and flavor to the dish.
PHOTOGRAPHY via Simply Recipes
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.