I recently posted this Instagram photo of something new (to me) called Kaleidoscope sprouts. I discovered that lots of others had never heard of them either. My friend Colleen commented, “My two favorite veggies had a love child?”
That is exactly what happened. Kaleidoscope sprouts, also known as flower sprouts, are a clever cross between kale and Brussels sprouts. I found them at the Twin Springs stall at my weekly farmers’ market. Aubrey the farmer, whose son grew them, told me that they grow on long thick stalks, just like Brussels sprouts. But their heads are open rather than closed. These had been cut from the stalk and were displayed loose in a bin, their green and purple ruffles piled up like so many tiny vegetable petticoats. Who could resist that?
It’s true that people used to look askance at kale and cringe at the mention of Brussels sprouts; few would have counted either among their favorite Thanksgiving sides. But that was awhile ago, before we realized their shortcomings had nothing to do with them and everything to do with the way we mistreated them in the kitchen.
Once I got the sprouts home i looked at them closely (they resembled baby heads of romaine lettuce, only sturdier) and pondered what to do with them. My friend Meeta, who lives in Germany and had heard of them, chimed in on Twitter with some good suggestions: lightly sautéing them in olive oil with garlic, onion, and sliced almonds (or pine nuts or hazelnuts); or cooking them with slow-roasted tomatoes and a finishing with a grating of pecorino cheese.
I was looking for the simplest preparation possible, since (as some of you know) I’ve been without a working kitchen since mid-September and have been doing all my cooking on an electric hot plate in the garage. (I’ve been assured that this culinary limbo really is ending soon, allegedly before Thanksgiving. Hmmm.)
I went with Meeta’s recommendation for sautéing the sprouts in garlic-infused olive oil ~ not too long ~ until they were wilted and just tender, still a little crunchy. Towards the end of cooking I added a shower of sliced almonds and, right before serving, Parmigiano cheese. They tasted just like they should ~ earthy and a little bitter (the Brussels sprouts side of the family) but milder than Brussels sprouts and even a bit sweet (the kale side of the family).
This easy recipe is a good jumping-off point for any number of variations, any of which would be fine for Thanksgiving. You could, as Meeta suggests, stir in some slow-roasted tomatoes. You could scrape the wilted flowers into a lightly oiled gratin dish, sprinkle with cheese and bread crumbs and bake until browned; you could toss them with a warm bacon vinaigrette for a winter salad. Beyond side dish possibilities, you could chop them up and use them in a frittata or on top of pizza. And ~ at our house at least ~ there’s always the option to toss with pasta.
Buon Appetito and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you,
Sautéed Kaleidoscope Sprouts
If you are unable to find these pretty sprouts, you can use either kale or Brussels sprouts (or a combination of both), but be sure to cut the Brussels sprouts in half to reduce their cooking time.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
12 ounces to 1 pound Kaleidoscope sprouts (also known as flower sprouts) or a combination of kale and Brussels sprouts
About 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced paper-thin
1 small fresh chile pepper, chopped, or a generous pinch red pepper flakes
Sea salt to taste
1/2 cup thinly sliced blanched almonds
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, to taste
Cut the ends off the flower sprouts and rinse them well. Heat the oil, garlic, and chile pepper in a large skillet set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic slices are softened but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add the flower sprouts, with the rinse water still clinging to them, cover and raise the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, until they are just beginning to wilt. Toss with tongs or a spatula, cover again, and cook for another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
Sprinkle the almonds over the sprouts and toss to combine. Cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes, or until the sprouts are tender, but still a little crunchy at the stem end (if you pierce the stem end with a fork you should encounter a little resistance). Sprinkle the Parmigiano cheese on top of the sprouts and serve.
Recipe copyright 2012 Domenica Marchetti