Some people say that they hate a certain veggie, but sometimes I think that just means that you haven’t eaten it the right way. For example, I typically can’t stand cooked carrots. No idea why, because I love them raw and especially in salads. But for some reason, ever since I can remember, cooked carrots have pretty much been the bane of my existence. Notice that you don’t see too many posts here highlighting carrots lol. However, I very recently learned that it’s not necessarily the carrots’ fault. The problem is that whenever I ate carrots as a kid, they were typically boiled with maybe a little salt/pepper and that’s it. Uggh. I have since learned that it is not necessarily the carrot that I don’t like, but how it was cooked. I think the same can be said for a number of other veggies that many tend not to like, such as brussels sprouts, a veggie I happen to love when cooked properly.
Why is it that so many people detest these cute miniature looking cabbages that grow on stalks? If you don’t like brussels sprouts, the reason is probably because when you’ve eaten them they’ve been overcooked. When cooked too long (i.e. boiled forever), a compound called sinigrin is released resulting in a bit of a sulfuric quality that lends an unpleasant bitterness. So the trick? Don’t overcook them. This is easier to do if you cut them up or separate the leaves like in this sauteed brussels sprouts recipe. But, if your friends/family are still skeptical, this is the perfect way to doctor them up – because after all, what doesn’t taste awesome when accompanied by bacon fat and butter?
A couple of weeks ago at Thanksgiving I got to try an awesome brussels sprouts dish made by my sister-in-law’s husband that I absolutely loved. I could not get enough of these delicious little green veggies, and was determined to do my best to make a relatively close copy of this dish when I got home. I don’t have his recipe, but I know the main ingredients that went into the dish and so decided to create my own version. I love the balance of flavors in this dish. The richness of the bacon and butter makes this dish so satisfying, and the cranberries and maple flavor add just a hint of sweet while the balsamic adds just a little tang, all the while still allowing the brussels sprouts to shine through. This is going to be a new regular veggie dish in our household for sure.
1/4 lb. maple bacon
2 tbs. butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 c. brussels sprouts, quartered
splash of balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. dried cranberries
salt/pepper to taste
1. Cook bacon in a skillet until crispy. Set aside on a paper towel, keep the leftover hot bacon fat in the pan.
2. Keep the pan on medium, and add in the butter until melted. Add the garlic and onion and cook until softened.
3. Add the brussels sprouts and a healthy splash of balsamic. Saute for a minute or so and then cover the pan and let cook until brussels sprouts are cooked through (i.e. you can poke them with a fork). Remove from heat, add dried cranberries, salt and pepper, and of course bits of crumbled crispy bacon. Enjoy!
***A little food photography note:
Take your time to take your photos. Wait til you have daylight if you can and don’t have fancy lights or a devoted studio area. But most of all, take your time. This is easier said than done when photographing food of course, especially when you have very hungry people waiting on you to serve them. But if you get the chance, take the time to think about the dish you are photographing in. Set up your tripod if you need to. Stand back for a few seconds and walk around your shot. Find the light.
Let me repeat that one. Find the light.
Take the time to know everything about the light. Where is it coming from? What color is it? What shadows are being created? Is there any glare or shine I need to be aware of? Is there enough light? One cannot easily just rush through these questions. At least I cannot rush through these questions well. The answer to each one of these questions may warrant a need to change a setting on the camera.
Find the best angle. Look through your viewfinder to see if it really looks through the camera like you envision it in your head. Be cognizant of every element within your photo – the shapes and colors that each piece contributes. Rearrange if you need to. Look for a balance of color. Make sure you aren’t too close and that you can get a perfect focus.
Then, and only then, start opening the shutter.
The difference in the quality of photos that you will get is quite dramatic. For example, compare these two different shots of this same exact dish – the first was how the dish was served to everyone and taken very quickly under incandescent light and rushed, and the second was taken today when I heated some leftovers up for lunch. Besides the obvious great advantage to a shorter exposure time when more ample light is available (the first picture was over .25s long), everything about the 2nd picture, where I allowed myself the time to think a bit before snapping away, is just so much improved in every way:
I am still quite the amateur with photography. But the single most important lesson I have learned when it comes to taking a good photo is that patience goes a long way.