Stephen, our VP of Purchasing in our South Region, got his passion for great food from his mother's love of homemade bread and his Nonna's manicotti lessons. While living in Zanzibar working on his dissertation research in African History, Stephen’s personal culinary explorations broadened. Even though the process did not yield a PhD or a career in academia it did imbue him with a passion for food in all its cultural and material forms.
I find it ironic how much I've come to love Brussels sprouts. As a kid growing up they, along with liver, were easily the foods I rebelled against the most. It's not that they were crappy frozen sprouts or prepared poorly, it's just that I wasn't open to them at the time. I vividly remember the first time they were prepared in such a way that I was compelled to do anything more than just poke at them….
As was true for so many things, my culinary awakening to Brussels sprouts happened at the Whole Foods Market store in Madison, Wisconsin back in 1996 or '97. I was working in the prepared foods kitchen and Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts was the dish in the chef case that crisp fall day.
Cool weather always reminds me of my feelings when my Team Leader handed the recipe to me and the other team members working that shift. I vividly recall thinking how much more I hated prepping the little buggers than I ever had eating them as a kid.
However, something a little big magical happened at the moment I pulled the pans out of the ovens some time later — the sweetness of the balsamic and the earthy richness of the sprouts washed over me and I was simply amazed at the transformation that had occurred and I just had to try one.
From there it was off to buying whole stalks of Brussels sprouts at the farmers' market and then going to u-pick farms to cut the stalks down ourselves. There was a stretch there where I regularly roasted Brussels sprouts in a combination of maple syrup, bacon and whole grain mustard — simply awesome!
The photo here is a more common sight around our house these days: Brussels sprouts, a touch of olive oil, some balsamic, soy and then my personal favorite, pimenton! Roast 'em for a bit then a throw them under the broiler until they get just crispy enough —perfection!
So, if you're like I was or haven't ever tried a Brussels sprout or don't want to try them and aren't even sure what they are, this is the time of year to wander over to your neighborhood Produce department and begin your exploration!
Do you have a favorite Brussels sprouts recipe? I’d love to hear what makes your special. Here are a few of our favorites.