Brussels Sprouts with Onions and Squash Seeds Recipe

Smoky Brussels Sprouts with Onions and Squash Seeds

I have a special fondness for the winter market.

Oh, sure, I have to bundle up, wear a woolen cap and good gloves, and by the time I lock my bike to the street sign I’ve claimed as mine, few of my fingers are available for immediate use. But when I get to my favorite produce stall and the vendors greet me, their jolly smiles clearly say, “thanks for braving the cold!” and I always feel humble imagining what it must be like for them, who have loaded the truck long before dawn and will be standing on the drafty sidewalk for a few more hours.

And that is essentially what I was thinking on Saturday morning, waiting in line, tapping my feet, and politely declining the orange segment I was offered to sample — I find the taste of citrus repulsive when I’ve just brushed my teeth –, when I spotted the crate of brussels sprouts.

Pistachio green, tightly furled, and no larger than the big marbles French kids call calots, they fit the ideal profile perfectly. When you’re shopping for brussels sprouts, this is the kind you should look for: the smaller the better, firm, fresh-looking, and roughly all the same size so they’ll cook evenly.

Like most lovers of brussels sprouts, I am a late-blooming one. As a child, I was subjected to the vile boiled stuff on occasion, at school or at summer camp (as if I wasn’t miserable enough as it was), but when I started to cook, I quickly surmised that there was more to them than that.

And certainly, there is, provided they are cooked to your taste. The trick for me is twofold: 1- to sear or bake them so they’re cooked through and browned in places, but not at all mushy, and 2- to pair them with something sweet, something smoky, and/or something crunchy, to defuse any bitter tendency.

This recipe is a fine example of that trick: softened onions, smoked paprika, and toasted squash seeds help cast a flattering light on these much-defamed, miniature cabbages. We had them as a side to the cured filets of duck my butcher prepares and sells, and which are the most tender and flavorsome I’ve ever had.

Brussels Sprouts with Onions and Squash Seeds

- 600 grams (1 1/3 pounds) brussels sprouts, small ones with leaves tightly closed
- a good gurgle of olive oil
- 200 grams (7 ounces) onions, peeled and minced
- salt
- Spanish smoked paprika (I used the spicy kind), a.k.a. pimentón de la Vera (substitute ground chili pepper)
- 2 tablespoons squash seeds, toasted (pistachios would also be good)

Serves 3 to 4.

Rinse the brussels sprouts and drain well. Using a sharp paring knife, trim the stem of each sprout if it doesn’t look freshly cut, and cut into the stem to make an X-shaped indentation, without cutting all the way through: you still want each sprout to keep its mini-cabbage shape, but the indentation will help the tougher stem part cook faster, and seem more tender when you bite into it. (If the sprouts are very small, a single cut, rather than two crosswise cuts, will do.)

Heat the oil in a wide skillet or a cocotte over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until they start to relax. Add the brussels sprouts, salt, and smoked paprika, and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or so, until just tender; you’ll have to taste one to check the doneness. Adjust the seasoning, remove the lid, turn the heat up, and cook a couple more minutes, until slightly browned.

Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with squash seeds, and serve immediately.

  • Aiyana

    I, too, am among the rare lovers of brussel sprouts (I like lima beans too, and have since I was young; it’s something about the texture). Merci beaucoup for posting this recipe! I can’t wait to try it.

  • http://www.meadowparty.com/blog/ Keith Law

    Alton Brown just did a show on Brussels sprouts recently and said:

    “Now you may have seen some recipes that call for cutting an ‘x’ in the bottom of the stem, as if that’s going to speed up the cooking. I certainly don’t believe it.”

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Keith – I’m surprised he said that: it seems common sense to me that if you split the stem open, the heat in the pan will take less time to reach its core than if it was kept whole. It would be like saying that a whole carrot cooks at the same speed as a sliced carrot. Did he elaborate on his reasons for doubting this technique?

  • http://www.cakespy.com Cakespy

    Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite foods! (I know, I know–the cake-obsessed girl says this!) This looks like such a loving way to present them–very respectful of their natural (wonderful!) flavor!

  • http://www.meadowparty.com/blog/ Keith Law

    Clotilde: He doesn’t. It was sort of a drive-by comment – you can see it here in the first video at around the 8:55 mark. (Note: I’m not vouching for the legality of the videos.)

    I have no real opinion either way – unless I’m shredding Brussels sprouts, I always halve them to increase the surface area for caramelization. I just thought it was an interesting debate.

  • http://citygirllifestyle.blogspot.com City Girl

    Yum – I must try this. Now that I have discovered tiny brussel sprouts, I find them so much better than the ones I grew up eating (always too large, traumatic and bitter!).

  • http://www.livingtastefully.weebly.com/-passions-to-pastry.html Eileen

    Like you, I am a fairly recent convert to brussels sprouts. I found a recipe that I absolutely love and now I can’t get enough of them.

  • http://angrybrit.com Angry Brit

    I’ve always liked brussel sprouts, even as a kid, although my mother never did anything fancy with them. I made brussel sprouts the other day myself- oven-braised and topped with thin slices of brie. This looks delicious, but for some reason I see it with sunflower seeds.

  • Mrs Redboots

    I love brussels sprouts, especially boiled! And even more especially proper Christmas Day ones with chestnuts and bacon, but plain boiled (they never cook properly if you steam them, I find) are best!

  • http://crynfiction.com Corynne Escalante

    this looks really good! thanks!

  • http://smallkitchenbigideas.wordpress.com Sara

    I am always looking for a good Brussels sprout recipe and this one sounds like a keeper.

  • http://www.justfoodnow.com Jacoba

    I have always loathed brussels sprouts but here you certainly changed my mind. I’m a changed person.

    Oh and by the way, you do need to cut the ‘x’ – I tested it tonight because of your debate. Clotild’s right – and guess what, the ‘x’ed ones absorb more flavour by faaaaaaaaaaaaar.

  • ygardin

    Comme vous, je ne l’aime pas quant j’etais jeune.
    I did not use to like brussel sprouts. Cooked the right way, they can be delightful and wonderful to eat. I also like “101 Cookbook’s” recipes for brussel sprouts. Somehow, pan-frying brussel sprouts seem to work miracles on them.

  • http://theendivechronicles.com/ Erin

    And my obsession with Brusssls sprouts increases.

  • http://www.joiedevivreanamateurgourmetsguide.blogspot.com/ Joie de vivre

    I was just served some roasted brussel sprouts very much like this recipe. They were divine! I often think of those farmers standing out on the cold street to sell their wares! We are not lucky enough to have winter markets here as nothing grows, but perhaps that is lucky for the farmer, it gives them a little rest!

  • Jennifer

    I love brussel sprouts. We have them at least once a week during the winter. They are very good with a little mustard butter or brown butter and pecans.

  • http://www.threecleversisters.wordpress.com Sara

    How funny–I just blogged about brussels sprouts last week and my recent conversion. Agreed–only recently did I realize how yummy they are, and like you, I wonder why they are served in that unappetizing boiled state. And like ygardin said, they are great panfried too.

  • Canada Girl

    The recipe sounds yummy! But I was one of those children who enjoyed brussel sprouts, along with spinach and liver. ;) I usually cut my sprouts in half, throw some olive oil and salt & pepper on them and roast them for about 20 mins. Mmmmmmm…

  • http://design-smith.blogspot.com/ A-girl

    I LOVE brussel sprouts. I don’t remember eating them as a kid (but I liked most veggies). I need to try this recipe.

    After buying them in markets for years, I moved somewhere that they could be grown locally and found them at the farmer’s market. It was the first time I saw them on the tree. I was surprised to see how they grew … I guess I just always imagined a bunch of tiny cabbages in rows.

  • http://www.snapperandthegriffin.blogspot.com Griffin

    I hate, HATE the way these poor little baby cabbages are cooked to death. It’s insulting to them.

    I cut them in halves and stir fry them with coarse ground black pepper, salt and occasionally (when I remember) pine nuts and fresh basil and oregano. As you say Clotilde, not until they are soft and mushy but have the crunch still in them.

  • http://www.garlicoon.com/profile/ray45 ray

    Another sprout fan! I am slowly introducing them to the Cypriot members of our family. You are lucky in France and elsewhere that it is so cold in winter – brussel sprouts taste so much better if they have been in a frost. Small sprouts are great eaten raw also – a nutty crisp cabbage flavour.

  • http://appetiteforchina.com Diana Kuan

    I love adding almonds, walnuts, and sometimes even Chinese shrimp chips to roasted brussel sprouts. Like you, I’m also a late comer to brussel sprouts, but they’re so versatile they have become my go-to vegetable side.

  • http://www.beurreetpain.blogspot.com Honeybee

    They served you sprouts at SUMMER camp? That should be enough to make anyone hate them!

    Glad you like them now!

    I’m a bit undecided on the subject, I eat them but not in very large quantities. Yet.

  • http://cathylwood.wordpress.com Cathy

    Love brussel sprouts! My friend who’s the director of our local culinary center is on a mission to turn them into America’s favorite vegetable. Thanks for reminding everybody about this delicious and nutritious food.

  • http://serveitforth.com Barbra

    Considering how delicious Brussels sprouts are with bacon, the smoked paprika makes perfect sense!

  • http://www.extrasmalldesign.com Angela

    I didn’t see the Alton Brown show on brussels sprouts, but in my America’s Best Test Kitchen book (based on the public television show), which is my bible for such questions, it does say cutting the stems is unnecessary. I’ll check for the exact reason, but I believe it was something like, it does help the stems cook faster, but nearly all preparations for the sprouts (sauteing, roasting, etc) allow them to cook long enough that the stems cook just fine without cutting. I’ll check though!

  • http://kathrynrotondo.com kathryn
  • http://kitchengraffiti.blogspot.com/ margaux

    I was only recently converted by a friend who roasted them with prosciutto and pine nuts. I think it’s the boiling method that killed the joy out of these things for most of us!

  • Genevieve

    I really like Brussels sprouts, but strangely we only eat them at Christmas. My mum buys them on the stalk – we call it the “Brussels sprout club” or “Brussels sprout mace” – look up a picture if you have never seen this!

    On the sweet/smoky/crunchy side, they are delicious if you cook bits of bacon in the pan in the oven, then put halved sprouts cut-side-down in the pan. Sometimes we have added apple. Yum. I think we got the suggestion from Martha Stewart’s website. The nice thing about halving them is that you get browned bits on the cut side… nice textural/tasty appeal.

  • http://duodishes.wordpress.com The Duo Dishes

    Love roasted brussels sprouts. The sweetness really comes out.

  • http://www.dandysugar.com lisa (dandysugar)

    I love brussel sprouts but only started to acquire a taste for them a couple of years ago. Now, I can’t get enough. Your dish looks so fresh and delicious!

  • http://www.unconfidentialcook.com catherine at www.unconfidentialcook.com

    I love brussels sprouts, and now does my 11-year-old, and even some of her friends. I love your site–I’m new to food blogging–and hope you’ll check out mine, which has more delicious brussels sprouts recipes than any other vegetable in the Veggie Section.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.gelskitchen.com/blog/ Sneh

    That is a beautiful recipe! You totally captured the visual image of market browsing on a cold, blustery day. I received a few handfuls of brussel sprouts in my weekly basket and could use recipes like this one! Thnx!

  • Julieta

    Clotilde, do you know Heidi’s golden-crusted Brussels sprouts recipe?

    http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/goldencrusted-brussels-sprouts-recipe.html

    It’s similar in spirit to your recipe, surely both are delicious. I love Brussels sprouts… I’m a teenage weirdo :-)

  • http://darjeelingdreams.blogspot.com/ IndieTea

    How delicious! I had roasted brussels sprouts, with pine nuts yesterday…the guy selling them at the farmer’s market suggested roasting them. :)

  • msue

    Wow, do I ever love brussels sprouts. My favorite is roasted with a little balsamic vinegar drizzled over afterward, but this recipe is sure to become a new fave. Yum!

  • blue mistral

    I’m not surprised you didn’t like sprouts as a child – it’s only recently that they started to be sold properly fresh in France. Astonishingly, in the land of super-fresh and varied produce, which I miss every day I’m not there, brussels were always yellowing and consequently bitter and with a tendency to sogginess when cooked.

    I find the best way to buy them is on the stalk – widely available like this in Britain now, and heaps fresher and sweeter than the single marbles. Also doesn’t damage the poor sprout harvesters’ backs quite so much – chopping sprouts off a stalk in freezing temperatures while bent double is one of the worst agricultural jobs going.

    I gave up the X in the bottom years ago. They’re just as lovely and I have more time to bake cake.

  • giuliana

    Regarding everything tasting bitter after brushing your teeth: the culprit is sodium lauryl sulfate (a detergent) which is added to most toothpastes to create a foam when you brush. A side effect is that it numbs your sweet taste bud receptors on your tongue. If you use a natural toothpaste like Tom’s of Maine you can avoid this side effect of brushing your teeth!

  • http://thecanberracook.blogspot.com Cath the Canberra Cook

    No Brussels sprouts here, it’s summer! I love them, and did so even as a child. My little sister and I had to have equal quantities each: it was unfair if anyone got more.

    My Mum used to boil them, but only lightly, and drizzle them with cider vinegar. I discovered only years later that if overboiled, they are truly disgusting – soggy and sulphurous.

  • Barry

    I made my own adaptation of this recipe tonight (I didn’t have squash seeds and I wanted to use up some scallions and a clove of garlic) and it was great! As is my wont, I had the heat a little higher than I intended during the first five minutes but the sprouts just got a little more singed than I prefer (my wife thought they were fine). Other than that, they were fantastic—so now I need to buy some squash seeds for the next time I make it.

  • Marcia

    I love steamed fresh Brussels sprouts with a little unsalted butter and fresh pepper.

    Once you’ve had fresh, you will never want those frozen ones! I have about 2/3 lb in the refrig to steam in a few days. Bacon always makes things taste better too.

  • Esther

    Love the sprouts too, looks jummie:-)

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