Winter means Brussels sprouts are in season! Those little mini-cabbages once dreaded in their over-cooked steamed mushy form are really quite delicious when you “try them again for the first time” as an adult if they are prepared correctly. The key to good Brussels sprouts is not to overcook them and to trim and halve the sprouts. The bitter taste often associated with Brussels sprouts can be attributed to high levels of sinigrin, a glucosinolate that is also found in broccoli and black mustard steeds. Brussels sprouts also produce acidic, bitter-tasting thiocynates when they are cooked. Since these components are focus on the center of the sprout, trimming and halving the sprouts before cooking can also reduce the bitter taste.
Personally, I’m partial to roasted sprouts. I like the crispy, caramelized outside leaves and tender centers. I think they are great with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and on a regular weeknight, that’s normally what I do to keep it simple. A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to please a crowd and I decided to jazz up my Brussels Sprouts with the also in-season pomegranate. I got this recipe from Bobby Flay and it was a hit. I followed his recipe pretty closely, first by making my own pomegranate molasses. If I didn’t (and you don’t) have the time to make the pomegranate molasses, I imagine drizzling the roasted sprouts with a tablespoon of high quality balsamic vinegar and a little honey would also do the trick. I love the color the pomegranate seeds give to the dish and the little bursts of fresh pomegranate seeds are an excellent compliment to the roasted sprouts.
ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH POMEGRANATE (adapted from Bobby Flay’s Recipe found here)
For the Pomegranate Molasses (adapted from Alton Brown)
2 cups pomegranate juice (I used a bottle of POM Wonderful)
¼ cup sugar
½ tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
For the Sprouts
1 1/4 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (If you don’t have this, try substituting a tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar and a tablespoon of honey. I haven’t done it myself but I think it could work and would love to know your results!)
Arils (aka seeds) from 1 pomegranate (tips for removing the seeds below)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts (optional, if you are using these, I recommend toasting these in a toaster oven)
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
For the Pomegranate Molasses
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice until the sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir occasionally until the mixture has reduced to about ½ a cup. This takes about an hour and 15 minutes and the mixture should thicken into a syrup, but it will not look as thick as a molasses. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Once cooled, the mixture should thicken up to a molasses consistency. The molasses can be stored in an airtight jar for 3-4 months in the refrigerator.
For the Sprouts
Pre-heat the oven to 375F. In a large bowl, toss the trimmed sprouts with 1 tablespoons of olive oil and approximately 1 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread the trimmed sprouts evenly in a large jellyroll pan or cookie sheet. Roast the sprouts in the oven until they are a golden brown and a fork inserted into the centers goes in without very little resistance. This takes about 45 minutes.
Transfer the sprouts to a large bowl and add the pomegranate molasses, pomegranate seeds, hazelnuts (if using), and lime zest.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve!
TIP! HOW TO REMOVE THE SEEDS (ARILS) FROM A POMEGRANATE (without staining your hands!)
The arils of a pomegranate are the fleshy delicious part that covers the seed and has the bright red color we associate with pomegranate seeds.
To remove the arils: