I can’t believe I didn’t like these as a kid. It’s one of the many foods, including fava beans, turnips, capers, oysters and others that have gone from the bottom of my culinary list to the top. My love for all things Brassica, the family of cabbage that produces my primary source of cruciferous vegetables,  peaks with these little heads. When over-cooked they release the sulphur-smelling compound sinigrin with accompanying taste and odor, this being the most likely culprit of my earlier aversion.

But when roasted, as in this recipe, they become soft, the outer leaves crisp and have a mellow bright and grassy flavor. Toss them in balsamic vinegar reduction and the sweet and sour  darkness creates a new experience all together. Also, like their cousin Brassica oleracea, or broccoli, you can peel and cube the stem and roast it along with the heads. The stem has an even lighter flavor and could probably make a wonderful soup. Think about that, creamy Brussels sprouts soup. Next time.

When you get Brussels sprouts on the stem, cut what you need and leave the rest attached, they’ll stay firm and fresh as the stem will continue to keep them plump. If you like the crisp outer leaves, similar to kale chips, rough them up a little by tossing them in sea salt or cutting out the little stem with a paring knife. Then space them well on a roasting pan and cook on high heat until brown and tender.

This method is really the god-send for the hurried household. Most vegetables not only improve with a high-heat roasting, around 400 degrees, but it’s easy, and quick – you can roast a whole chicken in an hour this way, just turn the oven down to 350 after a half hour. Carrots, potatoes, turnips, radishes (yes, radishes!) and even kale can be roasted and served immediately or bagged and thrown in the fridge for later meals.

And as a good roasting releases and caramelizes the natural sugars, a pre-roasting for soup and stew ingredients can add a richness and depth of flavor that raw veggies can’t match. Some veggies, like these sprouts, benefit from just the lightest of tossing in oil and seasoning, while others, like yams, sweet potatoes and carrots need a more generous coating. Experiment with fresh and dried herbs, roasting garlic along with your veggies to impart that golden roasted flavor and finishing with a bright acid, like lemon juice or vinegar. You really can’t go wrong.

1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved

1/2 pound red radishes, halved, quartered if large

1 T olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced by at least half, until thick

preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut sprouts from stem, cut large ones in half, peel stem and cut into similar sized chunks. Toss in large bowl with olive oil and radishes. Space on a large roasting pan and place in top rack of the oven. If you have a convection oven turn it on, watching they don’t burn as this will cut your cooking time in half. Roast until leaves are brown and crisp and heads are tender and brown. Radishes will be brown but still slightly crunchy. Remove and plate, sprinkling with balsamic reduction.

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