Thursday, December 13, 2012

In Winter There Must Be Brussel's Sprouts

Winter, dark days, chilly weather and Brussel's sprouts inevitably converge in my kitchen each year in mid- December, just when the best sprouts are in season. These charmingly packaged sprouts were on display at a local market; the purple netting perfectly complimented their deep green color. 

Classified as a strengthening "yang" food  in Chinese Medicine, Brussel's sprouts are appropriate eating for cold dark days when fortifying and guarding one's vital energy  is recommended by the classic medical texts.  Lately I find myself preferring extremely minimalist preparation: wash, steam, eat.

Unless I find very small Brussel's sprouts in the market,  I slice them in half before steaming to speed cooking time.  It's best to keep a sharp eye on the sprouts as they steam. Depending on their size they may be done in less than five minutes.  Test with a toothpick or fork and when just tender remove immediately from heat.  Allowing them to rest briefly before eating lets their natural sweetness develop, so I usually serve them warm or room temperature rather than hot out of the steamer.

Sprouts pair very well with many foods, but tofu cubes are a current favorite.  I prefer locally made tofu of the very firm type. Sprinkle sprouts and tofu with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Chile infused sesame oil is a great addition.  Extra steamed sprouts will keep well in the fridge in a glass jar for several days,  ready for instant winter snacks.