Boiling Away Hate


I totally get why little kids would think spinach is gross. Most probably share my first vision of spinach: Popeye drinking dark green goo, out of a can, and then beating the shit out of people. It was totally weird and random. Did spinach bring out rage in sailors?

Eating vegetables, let alone drinking them, was just not on my things to do list (which included making my oma judge my many productions of a My Little Pony beauty pageant. Moondancer always won.)

But I still don’t get what gives veggies a bad rap in general. And some more than others. Carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, there’s really not that much angst against them. But brussels sprouts? It’s like they’re so hateful that they’d rather stop helping the homeless than let two consenting adults build a life together.

Why are brussels sprouts so hated?

They’re pretty cute, actually. Adorable little bulbs with pretty, pale green petals. They’re not scary, weapon-like spears like asparagus. They’re not slimy with a clinical and unappetizing sounding name—fungus—like mushrooms. They don’t splooge juice like a tomato. Brussels sprouts are small and neatly compact.

Why all the hate?

I figured it must be from a wrongful cooking method. I’ve had brussels from the grill (coated in butter and wrapped in foil), from the oven and from the stove.  But I’ve never boiled them. Maybe, like so many other vegetables, they got a bad rap from being boiled to death. So I gave up the lovely browning effect just to see if my love for brussels could be extended to another method. And to see if I could discover the root of their hatred.

Boiled Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower with Orzo and Arugula, Cream Cheese, Lemon Sauce

I googled brussels sprouts and cauliflower and found this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and was intrigued by the easy boil, especially because I could use that same water to boil the pasta, making it easier on the clean-up end. I followed her basic directions for cooking times, but also added in the orzo while the brightly colored yellow cauliflower finished cooking.

Because I couldn’t rely on buttery, browned vegetables for flavor, I whipped up a bold sauce to make up for the boil. In a food processor, buzz around: lemon zest, lots of lemon juice, 2 whopping spoonfuls of cream cheese, 2 large cloves of garlic, 2 whopping handfuls of arugula, salt, pepper and a smidge of oil. While the the rest of the meal is in water, heat the sauce and then turn off the burner and let it thicken. Keep a lid on to retain the heat. Rewarm right before serving.

Toss the drained veggies and orzo with the sauce and top with parm and more freshly ground pepper.

Oh, and the boiled brussels were delicious. Pleaseantly soft and still flavorful without being cooked in fat.

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  • scott November 23, 2009  

    Boil them longer. It’s just like cabbage. Over cooked they get pungent and gross. There’s your hate. It’s all mom’s fault

  • KMango November 28, 2009  

    A fun and helpful posting. Plus, Popeye and Moondancer!

    And props for referring to Deb’s blog for an outstanding recipe idea. I’ll probably make that preparation soon, too, thanks for the inspiration.

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