Tuesday, November 12, 2013

One Great . . . maple-glazed Brussels sprouts

I love word origins, the ways that seemingly bizarre words turn out to have logical connections. That's how I ended up digging around in dictionaries looking for the origins of the word "cruciferous." You'd think it would have occurred to me years ago to wonder why so many fall vegetables share an origin with the word "crucifer," or cross.

It turns out that those vegetables are all members of the family Brassicaceae, which is another name for Cruciferae. And cruciferae is a Latin word that means "cross-bearing." The vegetables don't carry crosses, but their flowers all have four petals and look like crosses. That includes the mustard and cabbage family, including cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

That's particularly interesting in the case of cruciferous-vegetable haters, who act like all of those vegetables are their personal crosses to bear. I share my life and my meals with one. He dreads fall vegetables as much as I love them, especially when I start bringing things like Brussels sprouts back into our kitchen.

Don't be so cross, dear. That also means I look for ways to make even you like Brussels sprouts.

Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts With Bacon

1 pound of Brussels sprouts (cut from the stalk if needed)
2 to 3 slices bacon, diced
1 teaspoon mustard seed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup good-quality maple syrup (not pancake syrup)

Check the bottom of each Brussels sprout and trim it off if it looks brown. (If you buy them on the stalk, this won't be necessary, but you'll have to cut each bud off the stalk.) Cut larger sprouts in half and cut really large ones into quarters.

Toss the Brussels sprouts, diced bacon and mustard seed with the olive oil. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet, trying to get all the cut sides of the Brussels sprouts turned down. Place in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the Brussels sprouts are brown on the bottom but not burned.

Remove from the oven and drizzle with the maple syrup, tossing to coat. Return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes, just to warm through and glaze with the maple syrup. Serve.

YIELD: About 4 servings.