When I left the house this morning for the Hollywood Farmers Market I’d never heard of Brussels Sprout Crowns. I had already decided to keep an open mind about what I might find because it’s between seasons here. We’ve had both unseasonably warm weather and unexpected chilly days with lots of rain. And that was just in February. In other words, I had no idea what to expect. However, I was determined to pick something this week that I was unfamiliar with – something new to me, something that would necessitate putting my brain in gear. Stretch myself. Grow a little. Try something new!
As I made my way through the market, all the usual pan-seasonal suspects were to be found. I saw great radishes in all sorts of colors. There were greens aplenty and an endless collection of citrus. Oh yeah, and carrots, carrots, and more carrots. There were some nice new potatoes too. But nothing really inspired me. I peeked at sweet green peas in the pod – they tempted me. Not that they are all that original. I cook with peas all the time. Still, when they’re fresh from the market, it’s easy to throw all your other plans out the window. In the end, I decided that the peas were not really peaking, I’d rather wait a few more weeks and be rewarded with perfect peas. Besides, there was that promise I made: Stretch myself. Grow a little. Try something new.
That’s when it happened. I had an A-HA! moment.
My moment came because one of the stalls was featuring what looked like tiny heads of baby Savoy cabbage. Curly green and just frilly enough to look like that corsage you wore to the prom. Generally, I’m a big fan of Savoy cabbage, but my initial reaction to these verdant puff balls was why? Why harvest a lovely head of cabbage before its prime? Why?
And I don’t just mean why baby cabbage, I mean why baby vegetables at all? It seems every market I go to lately is featuring miniature produce at twice the price of life-sized vegetables. For once I’m going to follow President Trump’s lead and blame the Chinese. Weren’t they the folks that came up with the mini corn on the cob in the first place?
I was just about to stalk off when it hit me. I wasn’t looking at baby cabbage I was looking at giant Brussels sprouts. Well, Brussels Sprout Crowns to be exact. These leafy, cabbagelike bundles are the flouncy top of a Brussels sprouts stalk, and they’re edible!
Evidently, until quite recently, Brussels Sprout Crowns were discarded in the fields after harvest or were fed to some lucky livestock. But word is getting out – Brussels Sprout Crowns are becoming one of the coolest vegetables on the plate.
Once I got them home I did a bit of googling. It seems most Brussels Sprout Crowns are treated like other leafy greens and simply sautéed in a hot skillet with good olive oil. But I find the leafy crowns to be quite delicate, quickly softening in the pan. I’ve decided to quarter the crowns, leaving the core intact and butter-braise them into submissive silkiness with oyster mushrooms and (dare I say it) little tiny baby leeks. A-HA! indeed. GREG