I was 12 years old when we started eating brussels sprouts and other traditional Thanksgiving foods. The addition can be attributed to my parents acquiescing to my siblings efforts’ to recreate the holiday nostalgia portrayed in movies and books. Not to oversimplify things, but they were purposeful in creating the most Rockwellian of celebrations. There was an adamancy to refrain from adding Indian flair. No spices. No Indian ingredients. Just idyllic foods – like turkey, Stove Top stuffing, canned cranberry sauce and plain brussels sprouts.
Our efforts to emulate a traditional idea were bang on. They resulted in brussels sprouts that were boiled or steamed. Really, they were terrible. Smelly, bland – sometimes, pale green, sometimes slightly grey. Since they were depicted in every holiday scene – they remained a fixture on our plates.
I can type with confidence, to me, brussels sprouts (in their raw form) are somewhat cute. Fatly shaped, their leaves all bundled up, meet to form a cross, hence their belonging to the cruciferous family. I also felt bad for brussels sprouts. No one wanted to associate with them. Really, they are an underdog – disrespected until someone could see their underlying potential.
Recently, I read a line about underdogs requiring to work both hard and smart to overcome their obstacles. In essence, it is the combined efforts of these attributes that help them to lead to amazing results. One simply does not work without the other. While that statement was intended for people, it can also be gleaned for brussels sprouts too.
For our Thanksgiving dinner this year, I decided to give brussels sprouts a ‘smart’ facelift. It was imperative, I unleashed my creativity. I, rather my mom (she’s an amazing sous chef of sorts), carefully shredded the brussels sprouts with a knife. Instantaneously, the cherubic spheres transformed into airy, angelic wisps. Next, I infused them with olive oil, adding spices, onions, and garlic. Combining elements of sweet, salty, spicy and a bright splash of acidity, they were tossed with a generous sprinkle of poppy seeds. Roasted at extreme heat, they shed their underdog status into something truly amazing.
Mellow, soft yet crispy, lip-smacking deliciousness. The result was many oohs and ahhs, double checking if they were truly brussels sprouts. And requests for more, even from the most critical of brussels sprout haters. My only regret – not making a large enough batch. Next time, I would make double and eat warmed leftovers with a runny, golden fried egg and a healthy dollop of sriracha.
Non Rockwellian Brussels Sprouts
Preheat oven to 450F
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts
½ red onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon rai (ground mustard seed)
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Trim the stem end from brussels sprouts, then cut them crosswise into thin strips. Line a baking dish with parchment paper.
Put shredded sprouts, onion, and garlic into a bowl. Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and spices then toss the brussels sprouts with the oil-vinegar mixture. Put the brussels sprouts into the lined baking dish. Toss the mixture with the poppy seeds.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until brussels sprouts are crispy and browned.