Little Trees and Minié Balls

Or “how we do broccoli and Brussels sprouts at RedQuarters.”

I don’t quite recall when DadRed started referring to Brussels sprouts as minié balls. It’s been a while though, and the name stuck. Both vegetables come from the same family, both have people who love them and people who detest them. And both tend to be rather dry when brought home from the food store.

The grocery stores do a great job trying to keep things fresh. It’s just that our climate and open storage that pulls water out of the produce. As a result, at RedQuarters, we started pre-treating Brussels sprouts and broccoli (and cauliflower if we can ever find it).

First, fill a large bowl with cold water. Not ice water, just not hot. Then trim the end off the stems of your chosen veggie. You only need to remove a quarter inch or so (a little under a centimeter). The point is to removed the hardened, sealed cells so that water can get into the stem. Then you dump the veggies into the water, put a lid of some kind on the bowl, and ignore for a few hours. Yes, you can rinse them before putting them in the water. We usually let the stuff soak for 2-4 hours. Longer is fine, too.

The point is to re-hydrate the plant cells. This helps tenderize the vegetables, and it’s amazing how Brussels sprouts will inflate when left soaking for a few hours. The result cooks as fast as ever (or as slowly as ever), but is a lot more tender and not as bitter. Yes, they still taste like Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

We tend to steam veggies, using a steamer/rice cooker we got, ah, a long time ago. You can also microwave your veggies, and there are lots of recipes out there. A pound or so of broccoli or Brussels sprouts takes about 20 minutes in the steamer. Drain the veggies, put them in to steam, and do other things. For the last ten minutes, give or take, if we are not using the sauce from the meat to “dress” the veggies, we dollop some butter and balsamic vinegar into a metal bowl and park it (the bowl) on top of the steamer. The heat from the steamer melts the butter but won’t burn it. When the veggies are done, we tump them into the metal bowl, stir in the sauce, and serve.

Mom and Dad are not fans of fancy sauces for the most part (curries excepted), so we tend to have grilled or baked or otherwise plain meat with a rub or other light sauce, and relatively plain vegetables. One advantage of this is when Dad comes home with something like jalapeño-cheese bread, there’s less of a flavor collision.

11 thoughts on “Little Trees and Minié Balls

  1. Well, it sounds better than my old man’s habit of boiling brussel sprouts in diluted white vinegar.
    So there’s that.
    .
    (Nope. Sharing does *not* remove the remembered reek.)

  2. the trim off ends and soak also works for cu flowers And soaking carrots and lettuce rehydrates them. I’ve seen floppy sad carrots go to firm crunchy ones with a few hours in the water. Then the pets like them much better.

  3. I have, or at least had, no issue with broccoli.
    (I found I simply could NOT eat/stand it… after having no issue. No illness, no *medical* reaction, just “Enough!”)
    Cauliflower needs seasoning or cheese or both. By itself? Bleah.
    Brussels sprouts? Oven-roasted. *Maybe* microwaved, but then they need seasoning – and I need a drink or two FIRST.
    Boiled? There are treaties that violates, I am fairly sure.

    • There are various genetic/tastebud things going on with any kind of plant-bitter-cabbagey vegetable. It’s usually tied to the veggies not really agreeing with those people anyway, although sometimes it’s just a “supertaster” thing.

      I’m pretty okay with all that, although as a kid I had more of a dislike for bitter. Brussel sprouts have been bred to be sweeter, these days.

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