Delicious/Nutritious: Brussels sprouts flex their muscles

Bacon-y Roasted Brussels Sprouts

They look like baby cabbages, but brussels sprouts aren’t little on flavor. They pair well with both astringent and savory tastes and go nicely with main dishes from fish to beef to tofu.

Delicious

I was late to the brussels sprouts party, but I am an honored guest at it these days. Brussels sprouts always sounded like punishment to me, like slimy, odd-textured, cabbage cousins that belonged on the plates of bad school children who get their hands rapped with rulers.

I could not have been more wrong. Brussels sprouts are little balls of beauty, if they’re properly prepared. Like most vegetables, I think they taste best roasted with abandon. I love roasted vegetables, especially when they’re what I call “blistered,” which is a good image because it’s what I look like after roasting in the sun too long. That is precisely what I want in a good vegetable. Really almost burned at least on one side.

My family, of course, is skeptical of the beautiful sprout, so I had to go in with the big guns: add bacon. Because with bacon, everything’s going to be OK. It’s worth it, because brussels sprouts are high in potassium, chock full of vitamin C, and are a good source of fiber. So a little bacon to get them eaten? That’s fine by me. This is so simple it’s almost silly, but it makes for a lovely side dish and will impress even the staunchest vegetable hater.

Bacon-y Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

Lemon-Currant Brussels Sprouts Salad

2 cups brussels sprouts, halved

3 strips bacon, cut into “lardons,” or 1/4-inch strips

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon salt (or more, if you are like me)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 450 F.

In a skillet over high heat, (I prefer cast iron for this), begin to heat the bacon strips, stirring around for about 2 minutes to render fat. Add in the brussels sprouts and the salt, and continue to move them around until the bright green color emerges, about 2 more minutes. Then toss in your garlic and move the whole pan to the oven for about 12 minutes or until everything starts to get really brown and fragrant. Serve piping hot.

Nutritious

Though my only pre-age-30 memory of brussels sprouts is of my mom burning them once and never making them again, today these little beauties are easily one of my favorite winter vegetables.

I love them roasted or sauteed or even raw (when finely shaved). They’re a fabulous vehicle for the myriad of tart-and-tasty vinegars I keep in my pantry. And they also are great with Sriracha (which is pretty much the only way my hubby will eat them).

And eat them, you should. These little guys have just 38 calories per cup, but pack 3 grams each of protein and fiber for that small amount of calories. Not to mention you’ll get 125 percent of your daily vitamin C out of that cup, plus 195 percent of your vitamin K, 13 percent of your vitamin A, 7 percent of your iron and 4 percent of your calcium.

Plus, though it’s hard to accurately quantify, brussels sprouts are part of the cabbage family, which has known cancer-fighting properties. So, getting more of these little guys in your life (along with its cousins kale and cabbage) will be good for you down the road.

Lemon-Currant Brussels Sprouts Salad

Ingredients

4 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed and wilted leaves discarded

1/2 cup dried currants

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar or more (regular balsamic will also work, but the dish just won’t be as bright green)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Using a food processor, finely shred your brussels sprouts and set them aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the brussels sprouts and saute until just wilted — 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour directly into a serving bowl. Add in the currants.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and Dijon. Pour over the brussels sprout and currant mixture, then toss. Next, add the zest and lemon juice and toss. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve either warm or cold. Serves 4.

— Megan Stuke (Delicious) is a working mom, a practical cook and an impractical hostess. Sarah Henning (Nutritious) is a writer, blogger, vegetarian and mom.