At Mario Batalli and Nancy Silverton’s Mozza in L.A., they’re pan-roasted in olive oil and covered in herbs, sourdough bread crumbs and bacon; at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, Brussels sprouts are served with chestnuts in a sage brown butter sauce; and at Robert DiNero’s Locanda Verde restaurant in New York this fall, oven roasted sprouts tossed with chewy lardons of bacon and sharp Pecorino Romano were a delicious alternative to the usual starter of salad.
But while Brussels sprouts are usually a natural weight loss food (at just 50 calories a cup, the dense globes are loaded with tummy filling fiber and disease fighting nutrients), once you start fooling around with the veg–adding in loads of oil, cheese, butter or breadcrumbs–that little superstar of weight loss starts to dim.
The good news is, by cooking Brussels sprouts at home, you can use a few simple tips and tricks that will help you spruce up the sprouts without spiking the calorie count.
In this recipe, instead of using 1/2 cup of oil (1000 calories) to pan roast the sprouts like most recipes do, you’ll use almost calorie free broth to add moisture and flavor.
Rather than chunks of cheese, a shower of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano will spread that sharp and savory taste over the entire dish for far fewer calories.
And by letting smoked sun-dried tomatoes and applewood seasoned salt impart the bacon-y flavor, you not only trim calories, you cut out the heart clogging fat that real bacon brings to the dish. (Yes, I know that some of you aren’t buying the whole “sun-dried tomatoes are the new bacon” bit…for you, there are instructions on using the real thing at the end of the post!)
BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH SHALLOTS, GARLIC AND SUN DRIED TOMATO “BACON”
Brussels sprouts grow on stalks that are about 3 feet high at harvest, with the older, tougher heads at the bottom and the smaller more tender heads at the top. It’s a bit of work, but try and pick out the smallest heads with tightly compacted leaves; no matter how you prepare them, they’ll usually taste better and cook faster than the larger ones.
1 1/2 t applewood, hickory, or bacon seasoned salt (*see note below for more)
1/2 t black pepper or red pepper flakes
2 large shallots, sliced
1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), sliced
1-2 T garlic, minced or sliced
1/2 c chicken, ham or vegetable broth
1/4 c fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
2 t olive oil
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (Note: don’t buy generic supermarket Parmesan, it won’t have the kick this dish deserves..)
After 20 seconds, drop in the Brussels sprouts and let cook, without stirring, for 3-4 minutes.
When the sprouts start to color, add the salt and pepper, the shallots, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and cook just 2 minutes more. (If you’re not using sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, you’ll need to add 1/2 teaspoon of oil here to help the garlic cook properly.)
The broth will steam and soften the heads, turning them bright green.
After 3-4 minutes, remove the lid and allow what broth remains evaporate.
Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and taste for seasonings, adding more lemon, pepper or salt (plain or seasoned) as needed.
PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD
Though this recipe calls for basil, Brussels sprouts play well with lots of herbs…. Try thyme, bay leaf, dill, chives, fennel seeds, coriander, even nutmeg. And lemon isn’t the only acid that has an affinity for sprouts, cider vinegar and white balsamic are also good.
If you don’t want to use stock in place of the 1/2 cup of olive oil, try cooking with white wine or vermouth, they’ll get the job done just as well. And, for a little kick, try adding in a tablespoon of Dijon mustard when you add the wine.
And for those of you who really do want a wee bit of pork in the dish, try and find a good organic bacon instead of the conventionally factory farmed variety… and use just one piece, you can always freeze the rest. Just cook it on medium heat until all of the fat is rendered and remove to drain on a paper towel. Use that little bit of fat instead of cooking oil spray to cook the sprouts and crumble the bacon on top of the dish when serving.
Simply chop the sprouts with some fresh grape tomatoes and feta cheese and serve over light Wasa bread… it makes a great quick and skinny snack!
*Note: Though I love the flavored salts from Hepp’s Salt Barrel, if you’d rather not order on-line, check your local Whole Foods for other gourmet salts. And, if that’s not an option where you live, J-D’s Bacon Salt –now widely available in supermarkets–will do in a pinch