California can get a bit obsessed over its vegetables. We can be a smug bunch, boasting our asparagus in February when the rest of the country is still figuring out a different way to prepare potatoes and cabbage but we mean well and, occasionally, we can come up with great ideas that spread to the rest of the world. How many more people are eating kale now because of kale chips?
And I give you avocado on toast, which has been all the rage in New York for the past year, but we have been eating for at least half a decade. Cauliflower is the veggie du jour, with so many fun preparations it has replaced potatoes on many menus and Brussels sprouts have been unavoidable for quite some time in most restaurants: braised in apple juice; with bacon; with apple puree; caramelized; with pine nuts and raisins and on and on. If it wasn’t that its growing season is very short and the supply limited, I would bet cardoons would be the next vegetable star.
Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale have all one thing in common: they were never much beloved, never at the top of people’s lists of favorite vegetables and I credit California’s chefs for changing that or, at least, for coming up with preparations that make them much more palatable.
I was never a fan of Brussels sprouts myself, in fact I am sure I spent most of my childhood trying to avoid them and then I let them slide into oblivion for years. Because taste buds and fads change, I am now a convert. There is a brilliant recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi for pan cooked sprouts with lemon that I make on a regular basis and that has become a Thanksgiving staple. But it is a little bit time-consuming so, on most weeknights, I roast them.
A few days ago, a friend who lives on the opposite coast and who uses me as his personal human food app, texted: I need to make Brussels sprouts for my kids. Ideas?
Char them, I replied them. And sent him a photo of the ones I had made just the night before.
There is nothing sweet about Brussels sprouts and the idea of “burning” them might sound counterintuitive but the result is delicious. And quick.
Wash and cut the sprouts in two (or four, depending on size), getting rid of the tough stem at the bottom.
Place them in a roasting pan with a generous helping of olive oil, salt and pepper and some red pepper flakes if you like some kick. There will be some loose leaves that will have detached – keep them, they are the ones that will char and lend the smoky flavor to the ensemble.
Roast them at 400F/180C for about 20/25 minutes, tossing them occasionally.