Highly Touted Perfectly Sprouted

Brussels sprouts step up to the plate as winter’s favorite veggie.

When we were kids, they were our worst nightmare. Brussels sprouts, over-boiled to a state of odorous mush—the culprit responsible for giving vegetables a bad name. 

Then out of the blue a few years ago, the leafy buds began to show up in haute kitchens across America. The tiny balls were beautifully refashioned with complementing, umami-rich ingredients such as pancetta and butter. Here in the Valley, from sautéed sides drizzled with balsamic vinegar to tantalizing tapas enhanced by higher-end items like Marcona almonds, brussels sprouts are also firmly ensconced in the spotlight.  

Notably, they show up at Calabasas’ ingredient-driven restaurant Pedalers Fork (23504 Calabasas Road, 818-225-8231, pedalersfork.com) in the form of an entree—a colorful bowl of handmade ravioli stuffed with ricotta and brightened with brussels sprouts, organic chicken and slivers of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The brussels sprouts are baked first, then shaved via mandoline over the freshly-made pasta. 

But why the sudden penchant for these little green things? “Brussels sprouts have a great base for chefs to reinterpret,” says Gideon Kleinman, head of marketing and branding at Pedalers Fork. “There’s a vast variety of ways they can be prepared.”  

Due to the seasonal approach, Pedalers Fork only features brussels sprouts on their winter menu, when the crop is fresh and available locally. And their ravioli entree is only available as a special, when the kitchen can make the pasta from scratch that day. 

At Burbank’s newcomer Commonwealth Restaurant (222 South Glenoaks Boulevard, 818-845-2225, restaurantcw.com), co-owners Peter Park and Ryotaro Isobe collaborated with their chefs over each dish. Their unexpected pairing of braised octopus and brussels sprouts—grilled until lightly caramelized, then offset with fish sauce, garlic, cilantro, chili and green onions—yields an extraordinarily fragrant and rich result. The flavors are reminiscent of Asian-influenced cooking, making the winter vegetable all the more versatile.   

The leafy green, however, can also play the part of a vibrant small plate, as it does at Black Market Liquor Bar (11915 Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, 818-446-2533, blackmarketliquorbar.com), where they’re halved and tossed with sliced almonds, grapes and shaved pecorino cheese.  

With this winter crop reaching its peak this time of year, the appearance of brussels sprouts on menus is also a testament to the Valley’s movement toward sourcing and utilizing fresh, seasonal ingredients. It doesn’t hurt that brussels sprouts, when prepared properly, can be a surprisingly refined addition to any dish. Alas, a new reason to eat greens for us adults and our kids.