Updated: Feb 19
I know, I know, brussel sprouts... one of the least popular and most intensely maligned vegetables. They can be stinky, bitter, even slimy if not cooked correctly. But, LET ME TELL YOU, they are the best thing EVER when they are prepared correctly. Sauce, it is all about the sauce people.
The secret to making any sort of dark, burly, leafy greens delicious (and vastly easier to digest) is adding some sort of acid, some sort of fat, and some sort of salt. Some people also like to add a sweet flavor, some add spicy (those two are just bonus flavor preferences). Some add crunchy.
Below is a base recipe that has endless modification options
1 lb brussel sprouts, rinsed and cut in half
1-2 tbs grass fed butter (the fat)
1 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice (the acid)
1 Tbs gluten free tamari (or liquid aminos) (the salty)
Place brussel sprout halves in a steamer, steam for 5-7 minutes or until just barely tender enough to stick a fork in
While sprouts are steaming, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium low heat
Add lemon juice and tamari / aminos to the melted butter
Cook these on low, bubbling slightly
Add steamed brussel sprouts to the skillet, cut side down in the butter/ lemon / tamari mixture
The sprouts will release quite a bit of water, initially adding to the cooking liquid
Simmer (gently bubbling) on medium heat until sauce reduces to 1/2 volume (a little less than you started with before adding the sprouts) This is sour, salty, and has almost a beefy taste... truly delicious
Acid options: lemon juice, orange juice, cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, tomato (stewed, sauce, juice). Opting for either tomato and orange will add both acid (sour) and sweet
Fat options: grass fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, organic lard, organic duck fat, organic bacon grease (will also be salty), organic bacon with grease, avocado oil, any other cold pressed cooking oil (though you have to watch the heat for most of the plant based unsaturated oils)
Salt options: salt, bacon, ham hocks, any deeply salted preserved meat (turkey, ham, etc), soy sauce, tamari, liquid aminos, coconut aminos
Sweet options: soaked dried cranberries (for holiday treat you can soak these in orange juice), soaked dried cherries, pineapple, apples - notice that most of these are both sweet and sour
Spicy options: red pepper flakes, Sriracha, Tobasco, any chili powder or paste preparation
Crunchy options: bacon crumbles, fried onions / shallot / garlic, pecans, walnuts, almonds
Acid: provides a sour flavor, softens the tough fibers in these dense greens, helps encourage your body to release digestive enzymes, adds acid to the stomach to enhance digestion, but probably most important: acid binds the bitter alkaloids in these greens so that you can't taste them and so that they do not get in the way of absorbing the nutrients in these foods.
Salt and Fat: two basic things we crave, and generally make our brains register "delicious!" When the low fat craze started in the 1970's and 1980's we exchanged fat for sugar/ carbs - and have been addicted ever since. Salty fat sends the message that we have been fed. Fats provide a long, slow burn type of calorie, that has a smaller impact on insulin.
Salt and blood pressure: For most people a small amount of salt to season food is compatible with good health. About 50% of people with pre-existing high blood pressure DO have what is known as "sodium sensitive" hypertension. For these people the salt in this recipe might be too much. If you do NOT have hypertension (or specifically sodium sensitive hypertension), having a little bit of salt as seasoning in a whole foods diet is not only safe, but helpful for your adrenal and electrolyte balance.
A final note on nutrients:
Brussel sprouts are high in fiber! They are also in the "cruciferous" or "brassica" family, related to broccoli, kale, collards and cabbage. Brussel sprouts provide many of the same nutrients as broccoli (like Indole-3 carbinol, the precursor to DIM), including nutrients that help keep hormones in balance.
Like all leafy greens brussel sprouts are high in naturally occurring folate. HOWEVER folate is damaged by cooking - so the final folate level will be lower once these are cooked. With this in mind, try to keep the cooking temperature as low as possible, and cook time as short as possible. Just cook them enough to make them soft enough to eat. Try not to let them get too squishy. If they do get cooked to squishy-ness, they will still be delicious, but they will be slightly less nutritious.