Escape Of The Brussels Sprout: A Thriller

October 29, 2018
Escape Of The Brussels Sprout: A Thriller - A quick and easy recipe for caramelized brussels tossed in balsamic vinegar that'll convert the biggest skeptics

“For just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is

Photo Credit – Instagram – @erinsummer_

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Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life.  Stop waiting.  This is it:  there's nothing else.  It's here, and you'd better decide to enjoy it, or you're going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever”     ~ Lev Grossman

Jump to Recipe

I spent Sunday evening in the post-weekend rhythm of folding towels, doing a bit of meal-prep for the week, cleaning out my car.  I unpacked my backpack and returned a pile of books that were scattered around the sofa.  A welcome reminder that even hobbies pale in comparison to spending time with friends (old and new)

The truth is, the past couple of months, I've stayed pretty much to myself.  Between moving, starting a new job, getting oriented, and generally wanting some quiet, I haven't made room for much else

This weekend though, I found myself wishing for time with some of the people I've missed the most.  Time and togetherness, granted.

Spam recipes were shared, moonshine sipped, and dive-bar lunches eaten.  Living room fetches with a very squeaky monkey.  A farmer's market bouquet delivered to friends who said goodbye to their 23-year old(!) kitty.  They sent me home with a tissue in hand

A heart-to-heart on a park ledge overlooking the city, road trips on perfect fall days, and a rousing Saturday night Bingo game at the Halloween party next door

( Won $20 on a double-double, spent it all on tomato soup and a margarita )

It was all so necessary, this last October inhale, and I found myself filled with gratitude more often than not

Escape Of The Brussels Sprout: A Thriller - A quick and easy recipe for caramelized brussels tossed in balsamic vinegar that'll convert the biggest skeptics

Now that I'm home, I find myself feeling a singular shift in a familiar direction.  It began tonight with the ever constant worry that something I'd said had offended.  I found myself tossing and turning, throwing hard thoughts around a soft pillow.

At 3 am I'm puttering around and staring at the lights of the city outside my bedroom window.   Finally falling asleep, thankful for a few hours rest.

It's the beginning of an acceptance (internalizing, really) that I can't fix all things alone.  Knowing, my nature is to make everyone around me happy and to smooth all situations.  That after doing so for decades, the dynamics are far too ingrained.  It's simply become expected

Knowing the expectation of opening hard conversations, and keeping them going, has become more of a burden than I'm able to bear.  Knowing I'm not capable of offering apologies if I'm expected to guess what for.  The constant threats of losing my relationships have taken an incredibly large toll

Knowing it's time to create a new dynamic

Feeling (mostly) a huge sense of relief

Escape Of The Brussels Sprout: A Thriller - A quick and easy recipe for caramelized brussels tossed in balsamic vinegar that'll convert the biggest skeptics

My favorite moments from the weekend were those shared with a friend in Iowa City.  One whose warmth and kindness have helped me re-find my center (again and again and again ..)  We went for a long walk and shared a piece of the best apple pie I've witnessed yet

Because of her, I've finally felt a small lifting.  The clearing of the sky, the making of a new way.  The reminder that our time here is so very short, and we really do get to decide how we want to spend it.

But at the same time, how important it is to be mindful.  Not to harden our hearts or stop making efforts.  Because the connections to other people, and the memories with them, are truly what makes life worth living.

— —

Sometimes, it all it takes is just the right weekend to discover something you'd really never lost

Escape Of The Brussels Sprout: A Thriller - A quick and easy recipe for caramelized brussels tossed in balsamic vinegar that'll convert the biggest skeptics

Brussels are everywhere right now and I've been stocking up at the farmers market every chance I get.  I thought today might be a great time to share one of my all-time favorite brussels sprout recipes with you.  Although, calling it a recipe is a bit of a stretch.

It involves a sheet pan, less than five ingredients, minimal culinary skills, and about a half-hour of baking time.

Roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper, the sprouts and the pancetta crisp up in unison, with the fat from the pancetta flavoring the sprouts, whose crispy surfaces emerge caramelized and glistening.  As soon as the pan comes out of the oven, everything gets tossed with a few tablespoons of syrupy balsamic vinegar

I've been cooking them two or three times a week, and don't see an end in sight

Even if you're a skeptic, this golden-crusted version has the ability to turn the even most vigilant brussels sprout loathers around

A few notes about the recipe

Depending upon the thickness of your balsamic vinegar, you may want to reduce it a bit.  You're going for a consistency that is along the lines of a heavy syrup.

If you're making a smaller pan of sprouts, I'd probably start with 1/4 cup.  For a larger pan, 1/2 cup



~ Barely adapted from Ina Garten's Foolproof Cookbook

Ina Garten's Balsamic Brussels Sprouts


  • 1 ½ lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half through the core
  • 4 oz pancetta, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp syrupy balsamic vinegar (see notes above)


  • Preheat the oven to 400° F
  • Place the brussels sprouts onto a lined sheet pan, making sure to include all of the loose leaves, which get crispy when they’re roasted.
  • Cut the pancetta into ½-inch dice and add it to the pan
  • Add the olive oil, a strong pinch of salt, and a grind or two of black pepper. Toss with your hands
  • Spread out the brussels sprouts in a single layer
  • Roast for 20 - 30 minutes, or until they’re tender, nicely browned, and the pancetta has finished cooking. (Toss once about half-way through roasting)
  • Remove from the oven, drizzle immediately with the balsamic vinegar, and toss again.
  • Taste for seasonings and serve hot.
Serves: 4
Nutrition + Show
Calories 274
Total Fat 23.4g
Saturated Fat 6.3g
Carbohydrates 16g
Fiber 6.5g
Sugars 4.4g
Protein 10g
Print This Recipe


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  • Reply Andrea October 29, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    I’ve made a similar recipe for the balsamic sprouts with pancetta. It’s on Epicurious and it is fabulous. I made it for Thanksgiving a few years back and everyone (even the haters of the sprout) liked it. How can you not with all the yumminess surrounding a cruciferous vegetable.

  • Reply Dalene Ekirapa October 30, 2018 at 4:00 am

    5 stars
    You definitely have been busy for the last couple of months with all that to do! Anyway, glad you still rock at your passion! The recipe looks so yummy I must say; now I want to enjoy some yummy Brussels sprouts too.

  • Reply heydave October 30, 2018 at 10:30 am

    5 stars
    To think I once looked askance at them. I now proudly order these as a side dish whenever possible, loudly proclaiming “not just Brussels but all of Belgium Sprouts!”

    OK, so it’s one of those jokes that only makes me laugh…

    But seriously, great recipe. Wonderful how a little work make them take on so much flavor.

  • Reply Brandy October 30, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    I have been reading your blog for a while now – I stumbled upon it by accident and felt your writing was so fresh, “bouncy” and your observations of life were light, honest and I so appreciated your perspective!

    I look forward to your essays always. Your writing is reserved for my little tea/coffee break in the afternoon at work. Sometimes I take little notes and quotes from your words and jot them down in my journal to munch on later. .

  • Reply Melissa October 30, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    My sister finally got me to eat brussels a few years ago. I think I was turned off as a kid and then just avoided them. Now that I know how tasty they are, (especially pulled straight from the garden after a frost), I can not imagine life without them. Siblings are great. Thank you for this new twist – I will be sure to try it on the weekend 🙂

  • Reply Marie October 31, 2018 at 2:04 am

    This has absolutely nothing to do with brussels sprouts .. but! I just dug deep into your archives to find a chocolate chip cookie recipe I recalled making. For some reason, our family cannot agree on cookies, but the New York Times recipe you adapted made everyone happy. Sifting through several years of blogs to find the recipe made me realize what an incredibly complex, rich, delicious, wondrous story you have already lived!

  • Reply Rachel October 31, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Sounds like you had a wonderful weekend – I agree that those sort of moments can creep up on you out of know where, very serendipitous! And so lovely that you have such a close friend with whom you can share those sort of connections, you’re very lucky! The recipe sounds interesting – my family would love it! It would make a great christmas addition.

  • Reply KR November 14, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    You are too kind. Love you. It will all shake out alright, yes?

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