December 18, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Tofu

Ah, the Brussels sprout! Seeing as it's related to broccoli, it's no wonder I love this veggie.  But the trick is to cook it right- when overdone, sprouts release a chemical, called glucosinolate sinigrin, that contributes to bitterness and stinkiness but which is also a potential anticancer agent.  Therefore, it is in your best interest to be sure not to cook the living daylights out of your sprouts.  I think color can be one of the best indicators- if you have bright green sprouts, with still a little firmness to them, they are not overdone, and shouldn't be stinky. (Don't go using these pictures as a reference for color, my ancient camera seriously misrepresents the beauty of a good sprout.)

One of the best ways to get some great flavor out of sprouts is to get them a little browned.  Either on the stove or in the oven, browning gives sprouts this amazing nutty flavor that challenges you to believe it's in the same family as boring old green cabbage.  The following recipe is a really quick and easy way to cook Brussels sprouts without a lot of fuss, and no special ingredients. This is one of my stand-by sprout dishes: it can be whipped up in half an hour while I get the rest of the dinner ready.  And they're hard to mess up- always a plus.  
Don't leave your plate on the counter- Boogs love sprouts too.
Here are the recipes- tofu, sprouts, and the easiest way to make brown rice I've found.
This tofu was one of the best preparations I've made.  I always use extra-firm tofu, and freeze it, then thaw and press it (between towels with a heavy pan) to get out the extra moisture.  This gives it better structure. 

Mustard Tofu
1 block extra firm tofu
1/2 cup brown or grainy mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic (or one big one)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Prepare the tofu as discussed above, then slice into planks or pieces, depending on how you want them.  Mix the remaining ingredients, then cover the tofu with it for up to an hour.  When ready to cook, heat 1/4 inch of oil in a pan until hot, and fry tofu until browned on each side (about 5-7 minutes each side).  Remove and drain on paper towels.
Buying Brussels sprouts on the stem is best- they last so much longer this way.  If you can't do this, make sure to use them shortly after buying.  For all of these recipes, you will first want to pull off any of the outer leaves that look wilty, brown, or generally not bright and healthy.  Then trim the ends just a bit.  

Shredded and crisped sprouts  
12-15 Brussels sprouts (that's really just an estimate- they vary in size so if they're small, make it 20)
1 small white onion, diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

Holding the sprout by the stem end, slice thin slivers of sprouts. Heat some olive oil at medium, then put everything in.  Season with salt and pepper, maybe a splash of beer or white wine if you have some on hand, and cook until the sprouts get bright green.  Then turn the heat up to high and stir just often enough to let all the sprouts get a little browned. 
(Note: I always try to buy my sprouts on the stem.  They last a lot longer than the bagged sprouts, and I can pick off just as many as I need.)

Brown rice
1 cup brown rice
2 cups total of: stock or water or wine

Preheat oven to 375F.  Combine rice and liquid in oven-safe dish and cover (with foil if the dish doesn't have its own).  Leave it alone for about 40 minutes, then check for doneness.  I've had to add liquid when using foil, but not when my dish had a tighter lid.  Once it comes out, season with salt and pepper and butter or olive oil, or add some grated parmesan and milk for a risotto-like texture. You can also add in some finely sliced leeks or onions to the mix before putting it in the oven for extra flavor. 

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