Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

Posted by Brette in Food

Please welcome my guest blogger today, Steph Auteri:

Growing up, my mom pleaded with me to help her out in the kitchen. Being the little snot that I was, I huffily announced to her that just because I was a girl, it didn’t mean that I had to learn how to cook. (Of course, if baked goods were involved, I happily lent a hand if it meant I got to lick the bowl.) Naturally, all of this bravado eventually came back to bite me in the butt.

At the age of 25, I left home and purchased a condo with my fiancé. Suddenly, I was eager to be the happy homemaker. I inherited my grandmother’s frilly aprons, filled our new kitchen with appliances and doo-dads, and started working my way through a large cookbook I had purchased at my local Whole Foods. The recipes were long, complicated, and involved. Each meal took me — on average — three hours and, by the end, my back would be aching. The finished dishes? They left a lot to be desired.

One night, while driving home with my husband, we started arguing. At this point, I can’t even remember what we were arguing about — the disproportion in who was contributing what to the household? — but the climax came when Michael shouted at me, “Nothing you make is even good!”

I lost it. My foot hit the gas pedal, and then I swerved over to the shoulder of the highway and ordered him to get out.

I didn’t cook for a year after that.

Then, two years ago, my mother lent me her copy of Real Simple magazine. The recipes were quick and simple and — the results? — delicious! Suddenly, I was able to experience the pleasures in prep work. I enjoyed sitting at the kitchen table, my iPod on shuffle, chopping up onions or grating pecorino cheese. I loved peeling and pressing garlic, because of the way it made the tips of my fingers smell delicious for days. Sometimes, I even enlisted Michael to help with sauteeing or chopping. It was nice to toil away over those pots and pans together in our stuffy little kitchen, sipping wine and catching up.

It was the photo that led me to try Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans. I had never even had a Brussels sprout before. It was one of those food items that I had avoided due to reputation alone, like liver, or lima beans, or prunes. And I think my mother had avoided them for the very same reason. But the first time I made them, I was hooked. They were slightly bitter, but there was just something about them (the high quantities of garlic and salt? 😉 that made them special. My husband was less enamored, but he enjoys things like Red Bull and Slim Jims, so that was to be expected. No matter. That meant more for me!

Nowadays, I like to whip them up as a special snack, to be enjoyed alone and in secret, like chocolate chip cookies or the occasional, illicit canister of frosting. I love how the smell of them fills the kitchen, and seeps into the living room, eventually making its way to the bedroom. After taking them out of the oven, I coax them into a serving bowl, grabbing the few that stick to the bottom of the pan and popping them into my mouth, where they almost melt.

When people taste them, they always say: I never knew I could like Brussels sprouts! They get excited to snag their first helping (and then a few more). It makes me feel good. Once upon a time, I was the person who couldn’t even make anything good. Now I’m pretty hot stuff.

Steph Auteri is not a cook, but she does love the smells and tastes of cooking, and she definitely loves licking the bowl. She couldn’t really quit her day job, though. What does she do for the bucks? Steph is a writer, editor, and career coach.

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