- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I find there are two responses to brussels sprouts, and very little in between.

One response (which these days is becoming more common) is enthusiastic appreciation, as in: “Brussels sprouts? Where? Can I have some? Pile them on.”

The other (increasingly rare, but still present) is: “Please help me love, or at least like, them. I am stuck, brussels-sprouts-wise. I can’t move forward in my life, at least as far as this deserving vegetable is concerned.”

I don’t know what causes this blockage, especially among those who enjoy the other cruciferous cousins, such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. However, I do know there are cooking methods and flavor combinations that can bring brussels sprouts into an irresistible light, enabling many new appreciators of this worthy and nutritious vegetable. Here is one of them.

Braised brussels sprouts in maple-mustard sauce

Brussels sprouts come in a range of sizes. I cut the larger ones so they won’t be too imposing a mouthful. If they’re not too large, cut them in half. If they’re golf-ball size, quarter them. Leave tiny ones whole.

A high-grade maple syrup (one with very subtle flavor) works best for this recipe.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup minced onion

4 cups (1 pound) Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered lengthwise (or left whole, if small)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

4 to 6 tablespoons water

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Freshly ground black pepper

Place medium-sized skillet over medium heat. After about a minute, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it begins to soften. Add the brussels sprouts and salt, and saute for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in 4 tablespoons water, shake the pan, and cover. Cook over medium heat for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the sprouts are bright green and fork-tender. (You might need to add another tablespoon or 2 of water during this time to prevent sticking. Just keep your eye on it - and your fork intermittently in it.)

Using a small whisk in a medium-small bowl, beat together the mustard and maple syrup until smooth. Add this mixture to the pan, and stir to combine. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, topped with a shower of fresh black pepper, if desired. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

VARIATIONS:

m Cook the sprouts longer in the glaze, so everything melds deeply. The flavors will intensify, and the sprouts will become softer.

m Instead of adding the glaze directly to the pan, serve the braised sprouts with the glaze drizzled over the top. This is prettier, but the flavor will have infused less.

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