Brussels sprouts. Just the name might make many of you cringe. You probably disliked them as a kid. This vegetable could sure use a publicity campaign because, prepared the right way, they don’t have to be overly bitter or mushy. When handled just right, they take on a nutty sweetness that you may find you actually enjoy.

Brussels sprouts are members of the crucifer family, which also includes broccoli, cabbage and mustard greens. Grown for its edible buds, the leafy vegetables are usually an inch to an inch and a half in diameter and look like miniature cabbages.

Getting the sprouts cooked evenly is where we first encounter trouble because overcooking results is a strong flavor and soft grey buds. The problem is getting them cooked just right so those same enzymes that give that pungent flavor take on a nutty sweetness instead.

Traditionally a two-step process is used to prepare Brussels sprouts. This involves first blanching to get the interiors tender. Then the sprouts are roasted or pan-seared because the browning mellows the sprouts bitter kick.

Several years ago Cooks Illustrated published an article in which they suggested a one-step method that yields great results. First, select sprouts that are similar in size so they cook at the same rate. Rinse and remove any loose outer leaves, then cut the sprouts in half.

Toss the sprouts in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt and pepper plus a tablespoon of water. Place the sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side down and cover the sheet tightly with aluminum foil. The water and foil will help each sprout steam while roasting, resulting in tender evenly cooked sprouts.

Roasted Brussels sprouts two waysRoasted Brussels sprouts

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon water

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Toss Brussels sprouts with oil, water, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet with cut sides down.

Cover sheet tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 10-12 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are tender and browned. Transfer to serving bowl, season with salt and pepper.

Parmesan and Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

While Brussels sprouts roast, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium skillet. Add 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced and saute until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. After transferring sprouts to serving bowl, toss with garlic oil and 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

– Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

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Karen Tempel, an aspiring chef since she could reach the countertops, has been delighting friends and family with tempting treats for most of her life. She is the owner of Everyday Gourmet, a custom caterer in the Aiken area. Visit her website at or email her at

More about sprouts

• California produces most of the Brussels sprouts grown in the United States.

• The average U.S. production is 32,000 tons.

• The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium and may have originated there.

• The edible sprouts grow like buds in helical patterns along the side of long, thick stalks of about 2 to 3 feet in height, maturing over several weeks from the lower to the upper part of the stalk.

• Brussels sprouts are very popular in Great Britain; they grow about six times as many of them as the U.S.

• For a few days around Christmas 2010, UK Burger King restaurants offered a Sprout Surprise Whopper. It was a classic Burger King Whopper with Brussels sprouts and Emmental cheese.