Take a poll of your friends on what vegetable they couldn’t stand to eat as a kid and I guarantee someone, maybe even the whole lot, will say Brussels sprouts. Maybe our mums cooked them a little too long and they got squishy or maybe the little cabbage-like buds are an acquired taste. Either way, Brussels sprouts are worth another go.
Some say Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in Belgium in the 16th century, while others say they migrated there from Italy. Given their name, we can at least agree that they hit their stride in Belgian fields. Brussels sprouts are part of the cabbage family. But unlike cabbages, which grow on the ground like lettuce, Brussels sprouts pop out of a single long stalk.
When to buy
Brussels sprouts are in season from August through March, making them a perfect addition to your cool-weather recipes.
How to choose
Look for small sprouts that are bright green in color and as compact as possible. Skip any with yellow leaves as these are getting a bit old.
How to store
Keep unwashed spouts in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 3 days. The longer they hang around the stronger their flavor, so use them soon.
How to prep
If the sprouts are on the stalk, cut them off and wash them thoroughly in water. Some people go the extra mile and submerge them in a bowl of water with a splash of lemon or vinegar to make sure the inner layers are rinsed. Trim off the base and remove the hard outer leaves.
Ways to cook
Brussels sprouts can be boiled, steamed, sautéed or roasted. You can prepare them whole like little cabbages, cut in half or as separate leaves. Shaving them is a great way to add a bit of texture to dishes.
Convinced? Give these Brown Butter, Thyme and Honey Caramelized Brussels Sprouts a try and tell me what you think!
If you need another example of good things coming in small packages, consider an egg. It’s a perfect little ingredient. Delicious eaten on their own with toast (I’m crazy for poached eggs), the eggs are also essential to both savory and sweet dishes. What’s more they’re packed with nutrients, including protein, vitamins A and D and iron.
The yolk and the egg white have very different qualities. The yolk contains all the fat in the egg, while the white is the primary source of protein. So depending on what you’re making you may need just one part. The protein in the egg whites becomes light and fluffy when whipped, making it perfect for meringues and mousses. The fat in the yolk, on the other hand, comes in handy when making pasta, béarnaise sauce and crème brulee.
There are two main techniques to separating eggs. The first rocks the yolk back and forth between the two halves of the egg. The second uses the spaces between your fingers to strain the egg whites. Whichever way you go, start with the freshest eggs you can find. The yolk and white of fresh eggs stand higher in the egg and separate more easily. Also, the yolks in cold eggs are less likely to break, so leave eggs in the fridge until ready to separate.
Rock and roll
Transferring the yolk between the two shells is my method of choice.
Set out two empty bowls.
Crack the egg on the edge of one bowl as close to the center as possible.
Gently roll the yolk back and forth between the shell halves, letting the egg white drizzle into the bowl below.
Place the yolk into the second empty bowl.
NOTE: If you get any small shell fragments in the whites, use one of the shell halves to scoop it out.
Pros: hands stay clean
Cons: yolks can break with all the back and forth
Hand and deliver
For those of you who like to get down and dirty in the kitchen, straining the whites between your fingers may become your favorite method.
Set out two empty bowls.
Crack an egg on the edge of the bowl as close to the center as possible.
Slide the egg into your palm and tilt your hand so the whites drip through your fingers into one of the empty bowls.
Place the yolk in the second empty bowl.
Cons: messy; and the natural oils on your skin can make whipping the separated egg whites difficult
I’ve said this before, but it’s always worth repeating: One of the most appreciated gifts you can give someone is a home-cooked meal. So, whether it’s your first date or your 50th anniversary dinner, throw on an apron and cook. A few simple tricks will make date night truly special.
Play favorites. While a restaurant is designed to delight a whole bunch of people, date night at your place can cater to your sweetheart. Make a playlist of your date’s top 50 songs, mix up his go-to cocktail and design a menu that satisfies her palate.
Be a romantic. Honestly, the little things make a huge difference on date night. Use the nice china. Light candles and put fresh flowers on the table. Even if you’ve known each other for a lifetime, the little touches really set the mood.
Think simple. Even if you’re a fantastic chef, you don’t want to spend the night in the kitchen. Prepare something that can be assembled in advance like a baked pasta dish or a potpie. (This Chicken and Leek Pie is a winner.) Have hors d'oeuvres, such as cheese and charcuterie, ready to go and make sure the table is set before your date arrives. If you need to add finishing touches before dinner, invite your sweetheart into the kitchen with you.
Finish big. End the meal with a chocolate dessert. It’s the sexiest food in the world. A pot de cream or flourless chocolate cake can be made a day ahead.
Lighten up. It’s sounds strange for a chef to say this, but don’t serve too much food. That stuffed and bloated feeling isn’t exactly romantic and it makes you tired.
Get messy. When your date offers to help you clean up, don’t accept. Pop the dishes in the sink and cover with a cloth. Pour yourself a glass of wine and go snuggle on the couch. The dishes can wait until morning.