Maybe because my family didn't like Brussels sprouts, I never had them growing up. The first time I had one was at a nice restaurant, in my mid-20s, and it was cooked to perfection. Therefore I missed the revulsion that many people developed for the grayish-green, stinky, mushy sprouts of their childhood, and leapt straight into sprout love.
For a while, we were getting a vegetable box from a local farm that would send sprouts on the stalk. If you've never seen sprouts on the stalk, only loose in the market, I suggest you search one out. They are truly amazing. Each stalk carries a true abundance of sprouts, so for a few months we had sprouts sprouting all over the place. Luckily, I like them, and I converted my dining partner pretty quickly. It may have helped that you can wave the sprout stalks around while saying things like "Luke, I am your father."
Sprouts are part of the brassica family, and like their distant relatives broccoli and cabbage, benefit from quick cooking to bring out their natural sweetness. The problem with sprouts is that their leaves are so tightly packed that boiling tends to overcook the outside without touching the inside. Fortunately, I got a tip from a TV appearance by Heston Blumenthal. I trust the science geek chef implicitly in matters such as these, so when he said that the microwave, which cooks things from the inside out, was perfect for the tightly-wound sprouts. As usual, he was right. Microwaving Brussels sprouts for a few minutes, then drizzling a balsamic or mustard dressing over the top while warm, is a dish that would convert even the most entrenched sprout-hater.
Butter bean, Brussels sprouts and potato soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 C. butter beans, cooked from scratch, plus cooking liquid
1 medium potato, cubed (approx. 1 C.)
1 C. sliced Brussels sprouts
Vegetable stock to make up liquid volume (depending on how much bean cooking liquid there is)
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion until soft, then add garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add potato, cooking liquid from beans, enough vegetable stock to make up about 4 cups of liquid, and simmer until potatoes are soft.
Add butter beans, then stir in Brussels sprouts and cook just a few minutes, until they turn bright green with no hint of them going to the dark side.