For all the slander and character assassination directed at brussel sprouts, they must have the lowest self esteem in all the vegetable kingdom. Everyone seems to have something bad to say about them. My dad calls them “little green balls of misery,” which he announces out loud every year on Thanksgiving and Christmas when they’re brought to the table. Regardless, he will eat them, albeit with a predictable lack of gusto. Many refuse to ingest them outright.
I’ve probed a number of people about their nay-saying attitude toward brussel sprouts and generally they appear to stem from childhood and being forced to choke them back – boiled beyond recognition, a sickly greenish-brown, foul-smelling and falling apart – lest dessert, or permission to leave the table, be denied. Given these anecdotal experiences – and aside from the questionable practice of bribing children with food (!) – little mystery remains as to why brussel sprouts have held such a tarnished reputation for so long. It’s therefore somewhat incongruous that the culinary world is increasingly embracing these sullied green nuggets, and in so doing have talked them down from the proverbial ledge.
I’m not exactly sure what accounts for this change of outlook – perhaps the growing recognition of the health benefits of eating leafy green vegetables – but brussel sprouts are definitely no longer solely vehicles for processed cheese sauce and other concoctions dwelling deep in the dog-eared recesses of your grandmother’s recipe box. Indeed, they’ve come to be considered somewhat of a gourmet ingredient. Just today, Saveur published a feature piece dedicated exclusively to brussel sprout recipes. And if Pinterest can be used as a gauge of culinary trends, brussel sprouts are hot (parmesan sprout-kabob, anyone?). In many ways brussels sprouts are like the dork in high school who went on to have a super succesful and high-earning career. Good on ’em!
Even before I decided to use brussel sprouts in this dish, I had a specific colour palate in mind (as I discussed in this post, I place a lot of importance on the colour of my food!). I love the way purple cabbage and wild rice look together, and thought a splash of vibrant green would be the perfect compliment to these two ingredients. I was planning to use a spicy ginger marinade for the tofu, so really any green vegetable would have worked nicely. But I happened to have just bought a bunch of brussel sprouts, and while they weren’t the most obvious choice for an Asian-inspired dish, they were a success! By pan-searing them alongside the spicy marinated tofu they take on a smoky-sweet flavour that would convert any sprout-hater, I do believe. What’s your favourite way of eating brussel sprouts? Or are you still in the anti-sprout camp? Tell me your sprouty stories!
Recipe: Pan-Seared Brussel Sprouts and Spicy Ginger Tofu with Wild Rice and Purple Cabbage
- 175g (about 1 1/4 cups) firm tofu, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1 cup wild rice, uncooked
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups brussel sprouts, ends removed and halved
- 1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds, for garnish
Spicy Ginger Marinade
- 3 tablespoons Bragg’s All Purpose Seasoning (or tamari)
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 3 teaspoons Sambal Olek
- 2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
Prepare wild rice: Rinse wild rice in a colander and drain thoroughly. Place wild rice, vegetable stock and water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to cook for 50 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. While rice is cooking, prepare Spicy Ginger Tofu Marinade and toast sesame seeds.
Prepare Spicy Ginger Tofu Marinade: Place cubed tofu in an 8″ x 8″ casserole dish. Whisk together marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Pour marinade over tofu and gently stir until cubes of tofu are completely coated with marinade. Place dish in fridge to marinate.
Toast sesame seeds: Place sesame seeds in a small skillet over low-medium heat. Stir constantly just until seeds are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
Once rice has finished cooking, remove marinated tofu from fridge. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tofu to skillet. [Note: Do not throw away marinade; it will be used later in the recipe!] Gently saute tofu, stirring constantly, until starting to brown. Add halved brussel sprouts to skillet and saute until tender crisp and outer leaves are beginning to caramelize.
Add cooked wild rice and shredded purple cabbage to skillet and gently fold until evenly combined with tofu and brussel sprouts. Gently stir in remainder of Spicy Ginger Marinade. Transfer to serving dishes and top with toasted sesame seeds. Eat!