You never get too old for surprises.
The other night, I decided at the last minute – OK – two hours – to throw together a dinner for five of us who were going to brave the cold and go see the Christmas light display at our botanical garden.
I planned to roast a pork loin rubbed with brown sugar, salt, pepper and paprika, on a bed of baby carrots and button mushrooms. Cooked up some homemade cranberry sauce and made horseradish sauce for the meat. Store bought yeast rolls (last minute, you know) and tons of desserts almost finished out the menu.
We needed a vegetable. I picked up Brussels sprouts. It was a risky move. These tiny green gems can inspire rabid reactions in some people – mostly bad reactions. But, they were going to be roasted so they wouldn’t resemble the mushy stuff that got hidden in glasses of milk and napkins over many a childhood.
Sliced in half, thrown in a big casserole, doused liberally with extra virgin olive oil and seasonings, the little darlings went into the oven and came out caramalized, in that blissful state between firm and soft and nutty. Perfect. But then, here came the guests. It was anyone’s guess how they would react.
Maybe it was the holiday exuberance. Maybe it was the cold. But the unanimous reaction was over-the-top enthusiastic.
“Sprouts!” one yelled. “I love sprouts. You made sprouts!”
We sat down and devoured the meal. Everyone went back for seconds on the sprouts, but at the end a few still remained in the dish. The negotiating began.
“You want a few more?”
“I’ll split these with you.”
“I’m stuffed, but two more couldn’t hurt…”
Dessert was left untouched.
A new bond had been forged in the group that night – the bond of the love for an often reviled food.
Now if I could just come up with a good way to make beets…
Roasted Brussels sprouts
Serves five generously
1 1/2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the stems off the sprouts and remove any damaged leaves. Cut each sprout in half and toss into a 13×9 inch casserole. Pour olive oil over sprouts, stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring once or twice, until outside leaves look browned and caramelized.