Brussels Sprouts: From Food-Nemesis to Veggie Favorite

Years ago, if you had told me that I would willingly dedicate an entire column to Brussels sprouts, I would have thought you were crazy. Up until about six years ago, Brussels sprouts were not just low on my list of preferred foods, they were my food-nemesis (as a mayo-phobe, I could almost include mayonnaise in this group, except I don’t consider it to be a real food).

I was a very picky eater as a child. My parents would endlessly try to introduce new foods into my routine, but I was stubborn and known to hold my ground. When I was about nine or ten, my mother served Brussels sprouts one night with dinner. She had served them several times before, but I had always managed to avoid having to eat one. However, on this night, there must have been something extra-irritating about my reaction that moved my parents into battle mode.

Maybe my eyes rolled one too many times, or my words of protest were too pronounced. Whatever it was, my parents were suddenly determined that this was the night I would try my first Brussels sprout. Just one, they said, and if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have to eat them ever again. Just try it, Sarah, you might like it.

I refused, and continued eating my dinner. But my parents were adamant, and after everyone had finished their dinner, they announced that I could leave the table only after I’d tried a Brussels sprout.

A smarter kid would have sucked it up and quickly downed a sprout, but I was in a prickly mood that night and decided to dig my heels in. No, I said, I will not be having Brussels sprouts tonight, or ever. I sat at that table as everyone left to pursue other evening activities, and didn’t leave my chair until two hours later when my mom came in, defeated, and told me to go to bed. This was the last time my parents and I ever fought about food.

Triumphant in my victory, I never looked back and until six years ago had never even tasted the food I despised so much as a child. But on my 39th birthday, Tony and Gio took me out for dinner to celebrate, and the vegetable which accompanied my chosen entrée was the dreaded Brussels sprout.

On the cusp of approaching a new decade in my life, I decided it was time to face my fear of this leafy green villain. I’m so glad I did, because I learned that I loved Brussels sprouts. Even more surprising, our then five-year-old son, Gio, loved them too.

Like most leafy green vegetables, Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamins and full of wonderful health benefits. They can have a very strong, almost bitter flavor, but roasting them mellows out the bitterness and allows their natural sweetness to come through. We often add bacon and shallots to our mix before roasting, which makes them taste even better.

The farmers markets are exploding right now with quirky stalks full of fresh Brussels sprouts, which charmingly resemble tiny Christmas trees. Fresh sprouts are better than frozen, and buying them on the stalk makes the process even more fun.

I’m sure my parents are rolling their eyes and chuckling to each other as they read this, thinking that I could have learned this lesson all those years ago. But, better late than never, right?

RECIPE: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Shallots


RECIPE: Savory Red Pepper Soup

Soup season has arrived, and we have some great soup recipes for you to enjoy this fall, which you can find by visiting our RECIPES page. We also have a great video with Tony demonstrating how to make one of our favorite soups, Red Pepper Soup, recently on North Dakota Today. Just click on the play button below to watch Tony, or click HERE for the recipe.

It’s First-Course Friday!

TGIF, because tonight and every Friday is “First-Course Friday” at Sarello’s, when you can enjoy any appetizer for half-price, all night long! Try this week’s special appetizer featuring a savory Jumbo Lump Crab stuffed Portobello Mushroom, or check out menu mainstays like Caprese Crostini, Beef Kebabs, and the famous Red Curry Scallops.

Start with the first-course special, and stay for dinner to enjoy Chef Ben’s delicious weekend specials, including a Panko & Peppercorn Pork Chop, Red Pepper Soup, Fruits of Summer Salad, and a beautifully creative Deconstructed Cheesecake dessert parfait with lemon cheesecake, blueberry sauce and candied lemon zest. When you go, make sure to take a trip back to the kitchen to say hello to Tony!

For reservations, call Sarello’s at 218.287.0238, or stop in anytime after 5 PM!

Why You Should Get to Know a Farmer

One of the best experiences we’ve had as a family has been our exploration of North Dakota. Our journey began two summers ago, when we decided to get lost on the prairie by traveling to a different place in North Dakota every weekend, and it has become a lifelong pursuit.

We would drive for miles passing field after field and wondering what the crops alongside us were. Wheat, corn and sunflowers were easy, but the field guide we had said that North Dakota was also one of the leading producers of barley, sugar beets, soybeans, dry edible beans, flax, potatoes, canola, oats and honey, to name a few.

As the crops flashed by our moving car, we found ourselves repeatedly wishing that we knew a farmer who could provide us with some answers. How could we have lived in North Dakota, one of the agricultural capitals of the world, for all these years and not know this stuff? (The photo below shows pictures of each featured crop – can you name them?)

Fortunately, our participation in last Tuesday’s inaugural Banquet in a Field event, hosted by Julie and Carl Peterson of Peterson Farms Seed, yielded better results than we could have imagined.

Not only can we now identify all of the above crops (albeit within close range), but we also have at least a dozen or so farmers as new friends, and several invitations to visit local farms and even ride a combine.

Our servers for the evening were volunteers from the Future Farmers of America, including some of the state officers. These young people were just amazing – hard-working, polite, adaptable, and mature beyond their years.

The event was sponsored by Common Ground North Dakota, a dynamic group of volunteer farm women who are on a mission to connect with those of us outside the world of agriculture in an effort to help us better understand how our food is produced.

And, of course, what North Dakota banquet would be complete without a little bit of meat? We were blessed to be joined by our friend Austen Germolus and another member from NDSU’s BBQ Boot Camp, who brought their big grill right onto the field and served up the most amazing beef tenderloin and leg of lamb I have ever eaten. These men really know their meat.

Tony and I read about food every day – it’s our livelihood and we care about what we eat and serve, both at home and in our restaurant. With so much information disseminated on the web, in our newspapers, and on our TVs, it’s easy to see why many people have become concerned about our food and its production here at home and abroad.

How harmful are pesticides and GMOs? What is the difference between organic farming and conventional farming? Is a tractor the same thing as a combine? Is our chicken really going to come from China?

The women from Common Ground have touched on something by reaching out to non-ag folks to establish personal relationships between both cultures. Eating is one of the most personal experiences we have as humans, and we have to do it several times a day. By starting the conversation, these farm women give the rest of us an opportunity to meet a food-producer and ask our questions so that we can make informed decisions about the foods we eat.

At Banquet in a Field 110 non-ag folks from Fargo and Cass County turned out to meet some area farmers, tour plots of eleven different crops and learn the difference between a tractor and a combine.

They also had the opportunity to taste foods made with those eleven crops, and one of the most popular appetizers we served was a recipe for Corn Fritters fried in canola oil, created by our Sarello’s Executive Chef, Ben Walker. Chef Ben’s fritters are delicious, easy to make and, as one guest told me, “Surprisingly full of flavor for a corn fritter.”

Agriculture is the heartbeat of our state, and will continue to be long after the oil boom goes bust. If you have questions about your food, take some time to get to know a farmer. You won’t be sorry, and you might even get to ride a combine.

Many thanks to Krista Kappes, Betsy Armour and
Katie Pinke for sharing their photos from the event!

Chef Ben’s Corn Fritters

Makes: 24-30 fritters

Ingredients: 3 cups flour
½ cup plus
1 tablespoon yellow corn meal
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
3 eggs
2 cups fresh sweet yellow corn (approx. 3 ears)
Canola oil for frying

Directions: In a large bowl, combine the flour, corn meal, sugar, cayenne pepper, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and milk, then add to the flour mixture and stir or whisk until well combined. Add the corn and gently fold to incorporate. Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.

Heat 4 inches of oil in a heavy pot or deep fryer to 350 degrees (use a deep-fry thermometer for accuracy). Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to drop the batter into the oil, and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Season with salt as desired.

Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy.