It’s beautiful in the city this time of year – with bright, changing foliage, crisp, autumnal air, shops aglow with festive displays and colorful holiday lights dotting the trees. It’s my first Fall in San Francisco and I’ve been feeling nostalgic; missing home, family, the familiar holiday traditions. Craving comfort foods. Flavorful soups, braised meats and roasted, earthy vegetables.

This combination of smokey bacon, sweet caramelized onions and golden-kissed Brussels sprouts is the perfect antidote for chilly days. Warm and flavorful, yet still light.

I must confess that this is not an old family recipe. Growing up, vegetables were always strongly encouraged. But despite a large edible garden that produced a nearly year-round bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, Brussels sprouts not only never made it to our dinner table, they didn’t even get planted. There was some kind of long-standing familial boycott. In fact, I had never even tried Brussels sprouts until recently. I expected to detest them, given their generally terrible reputation. Instead, I was surprised that I actually liked them, and – to the great chagrin of my family – inspired to explore the possibilities of this new-to-me ingredient.

So I started some research and discovered that overcooking Brussels sprouts brings out an unappetizing sulfurous smell, bitterness and dull color (I would suspect the reason for my family’s embargo). Armed with that, I decided that quickly sauteing them to a crisp al dente would be a wonderful way to retain their bright, slightly sweet flavor.

If that’s not enough encouragement for you to try these look-alike miniature cabbage heads, consider that Brussels sprouts share many of the health benefits associated with cruciferous vegetables: high levels of antioxidants, vitamin C and soluble fiber. They are members of the Brassica family, along with cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and collard greens, and numerous studies point to a strong connection between Brussels sprouts and cancer prevention. And when they’re sauteed in bacon drippings, garlic and caramelized onions, it’s nearly impossible to remember just how good for you they are. Even the non-believers will be converted.

Recipe after the jump…

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Serves 4

18 Brussels sprouts, cut in half (choose small, firm, bright green sprouts)

3 strips thick-cut applewood- smoked bacon

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1/2 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook bacon in a large sauté pan over medium heat until crispy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.

2. Add onions, garlic and butter to bacon drippings and cook over medium-high heat until onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Add Brussels sprouts, cut side down, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cut sides begin to caramelize, about 6-8 minutes. The outer leaves should remain bright green.

4. Roughly chop bacon and toss with Brussels sprouts. Serve immediately, while hot.