Aside

Spicy Sauteed Brussel Sprouts (for Vegetarians or Carnivores)

On our first date, my now-husband and I had brunch at Catalan Food & Wine.  It’s the sort of place that esteemed food critics describe as “witty” and the “perfect wine-and-food storm.”  It’s also the sort of place where you can enjoy a succulent pig roast…if you’re into that sort of thing.  Of course, I’m not.  As a vegetarian, I was a little alarmed by the sheer magnitude of pork offered on the menu.  Thankfully, a couple of years ago I reverted to eating seafood, making it possible to actually enjoy a wider variety of dishes from great restaurants like Catalan.

Our dating continued, and, as we became more familiar, we moved from reservations “out” to culinary practices “in.” This time in the kitchen really brought us closer together.

As the youngest of five children, Kirk (my now spouse) was assigned the household chore of sous-chef.  As he sliced and diced alongside his father, he learned the basics of preparing meals: Heat the pan first, fill a pot full of boiling water so when you add the items to be cooked the pot returns to boiling again more rapidly, etc.

In most ways, this was a contrast to my own culinary upbringing.  Our meals were more of an assembly line.  My childhood method of meal-preparation: Open box, add ingredients specified on back.  Open can.  Add.  Stir.  But I also enjoyed sharing a kitchen with my grandfather during weekends and in the summer.  There I learned of hollandaise sauce, perfect filet mignons, delicious salmon dishes with creamed spinach wrapped in flaky pastry dough and how a trip to the grocery market could enliven the senses.

Despite these differences, what we both learned in kitchens miles and years apart is that cooking done with care is an act of love.

In the kitchen and additional dining rooms throughout the city, we learned that we both loved food.  And, somewhere along the way, I started to really learn to cook.  Meanwhile, Kirk learned to love a vegetarian pescatarian.  And I learned to love a carnivore omnivore.  Though, as you may imagine, it’s not always easy, nor simple.

One night we had dinner at a lovely little neighborhood Italian joint, Divino.  While I can’t recall what I ordered, I vividly recall as Kirk told the waiter he’d like the veal as his entree.  Maybe you can understand how Kirk, growing up in Iowa, living a life of meat + veggie + starch = dinner, missed the PETA educational material describing the sheer horrors of veal production.  He couldn’t know how I felt.  He couldn’t imagine that, inside my small head (no, really, it’s nearly impossible to find a hat that fits) I heard “tiny, milk-fed baby cow that has never seen the light of day” when he ordered.

We talked about it.  He gets it.  I get that we all make our own choices for our own reasons.  But we still have hurdles.  Presumably the hurdles of any family that has a blend of omnivores and vegetarians/vegans.  Or any family that is eating less meat because they’re concerned about animals/the environment/their budget.  And that, my friend, is how T-Bones and Tofu was born.

In March Kirk and I were married.  Our wedding reception was a celebration of our love of food as well as the experience of love and friendship at the table.  We hosted our nearest and dearest al fresco at Backstreet Cafe.  The menu ranged from grilled lamb chops brushed with vanilla butter and a red wine reduction to eggplant parmesean aside farro salad with roasted cauliflower.

Everyone was happy as I hope you will be as you join Kirk and I for our culinary adventures.  We learn a little every time we light the stove.  But there are a few things I’m sure of: there are vegetarian entrees that are completely satisfying for even the most meat-loving of omnivores, and it’s unnecessary to cook two separate meals to satisfy two different tastes.  What’s more, our favorite people and dishes both have a way of adapting.

Spicy Sauteed Brussel Sprouts

(for vegetarians or carnivores)

Early in our dating days, Kirk realized that, because I don’t eat pork, he wouldn’t be able to cook one of this favorite recipe’s for me – spicy, sauteed Brussel sprouts.  As I had only ever had these healthy greens boiled, soggy and flavorless, I didn’t think I was missing much.  But after Kirk invented this brilliant adaptation, substituting butter and liquid smoke for rendered pork fat, I now know I was wrong.  These easy to prepare Brussel sprouts are truly delicious!

Original Version

Ingredients

1/2 lb brussel sprouts, removed from stems

2 oz. Spicy hard Spanish chorizo, 1/4″ dice

1 tsp butter

1 TBSP capers, roughly chopped

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Directions

Remove rough outer leaves from brussel sprouts and chop each in half.  Rinse sprouts in colander and drain, cut side down, on a clean towel.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add chorizo and stir frequently until just starting to brown.  Remove the chorizo and set aside, leave the rendered oil.  Add brussel sprouts, toss to coat in oil and then arrange cut side down.  Allow to cook undisturbed over medium heat for approximately five minutes until cut sides of sprouts are deeply browned.  Stir sprouts and continue to cook until sprouts are slightly charred on exteriors.

Return chorizo to pan allow to heat; toss frequently, about 30-seconds. Add, capers, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper (to taste) to pan.  Stir to mix before adding remaining teaspoon of butter.  After butter is melted and incorporated into dish, remove from heat and serve immediately.

Vegetarian Adaptation

Ingredients

1/2 lb brussel sprouts, removed from stems

2 TBSP + 1 tsp butter

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

large pinch of cayenne pepper (or to taste)

1 TBSP Hickory Flavored Liquid Smoke

1 TBSP capers, roughly chopped

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Directions

Remove rough outer leaves from brussel sprouts and chop each in half. Rinse sprouts in colander and drain, cut side down, on a clean towel.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 TBSP butter and stir frequently until bubbling stops. Add red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and approximately 1/4 tsp liquid smoke; stir to mix. Add brussel sprouts, toss to coat in butter mixture and then arrange cut side down. Allow to cook undisturbed over medium heat for approximately five minutes until cut sides of sprouts are deeply browned. Stir sprouts and continue to cook until sprouts are slightly charred on exteriors.

Add remaining liquid smoke, capers, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper (to taste) to pan. Stir to mix before adding remaining teaspoon of butter. After butter is melted and incorporated into dish, remove from heat and serve immediately.

Recipe copyright R. Kirk Guy.
Images courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.
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16 comments on “Spicy Sauteed Brussel Sprouts (for Vegetarians or Carnivores)

  1. J Vacca
    January 22, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    I love brussel sprouts, and they’re often overlooked! They’re also a great source of vitamin C – ONE brussel sprout = 20 percent of the recommended C you need (http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2363/2). In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C helps the body absorb iron which is essential for vegetarians.

    Now for the palate side of things. This recipe sounds great! As a vegetarian myself I might try the original recipe with soyrizo (def. an acquired taste and faux-meat products are not for everyone).

    • jennifervickers
      January 25, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

      You’re absolutely right about Brussel Sprouts being a powerhouse of a food. For some more ideas, check out this Cooking Light article. It is a great primer for someone who (like myself) hasn’t worked with them often.

  2. Ginny
    January 22, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    So neat to read the story of your love affair with your food and your husband. We’re huge fans of brussel sprouts (well, at least 2/3 of us are) and this looks like a great new way to serve them. Best of luck on the blog – I will be adding you to my feed!

  3. Ramona
    January 25, 2010 at 3:48 am #

    I didn’t know how veal is made. Sigh. I just came back from the grocer and happen to glance at the seafood section to see live lobster in the small fish tank.

    Please keep in italics, so I can read over it next time. I know I’m behaving like the 3 monkeys but I hate animal cruelty.

    That being written, whoohoo for brussel sprouts. I will share this recipe with Dennis (my carnivore).

    • jennifervickers
      January 25, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

      Sorry about cluing you in on the veal thing. That, along with Foie gras are probably the two things I don’t get the most about eating meat. (There are lots of things I get, by the way.)

      Your birthday inspired me! We should do another potluck soon.

  4. Ruth Guy
    January 25, 2010 at 4:17 am #

    Thanks! I love brussel sprouts! I think I could easily beome a vegetarian if fruits are included. Come see me and fix these for me — I’m not a cook which is why Kirk learned to cook with his dad — not his motherr.

    Love, Mother

    • jennifervickers
      January 25, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

      Thanks Ruth! How ’bout you come see us (and get out of the cold for a few days) and we’ll make it then?

  5. Steven
    January 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    Ah, the controversial Brussels sprout – Bane of children…

    Yes, my dad tortured me and my sister with these; but, as I found out in my adulthood, my dad was right – I didn’t know what I was missing!

    I’ve roasted them (once wrapping them in turkey bacon), but I’m going to have to try them with the chorizo (mmmmm, pork). But both versions sound great!

    And congrats on finally getting the blog launched! It looks awesome!

    • jennifervickers
      January 25, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

      Thanks Steven! You have to join us for dinner next time. (I really want you to cook!)

  6. Lorien
    January 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    I love brussel sprouts, and as a vegetarian, I can vouch for their super nutritional powers. I’ve always been saddened by the fact that they are often not cooked properly and therefore considered “gross.”

    I usually oven roast mine, but this recipe looks super flavorful. Back when I was vegan, I used liquid smoke all the time. I can’t wait to try it with brussel sprouts! As a kitchen “mad scientist” I would also suggest that this recipe would be delicious substituting cauliflower for the sprouts if you just can’t get over your childhood trauma with the greens.

    • jennifervickers
      January 25, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

      I love these ideas! How else did you use liquid smoke? I’m just now adding it to my pantry…

  7. Jameson
    January 26, 2010 at 1:05 am #

    I can’t wait to try the recipe!

  8. Jen Michael
    January 26, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    What a fantastic blog! Who knew you’d become such a foodie! Yet another thing we have in common… besides our name! 😉

    We have big fluffy hearts for brussel sprouts, especially when they’re roasted with olive oil and parmesan. Maybe some red pepper flakes, too. YUM.

    • jennifervickers
      January 28, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

      I know! I’ve come along way since the days where you had to cook me dinner everynight – or eat frozen food.

      Brussel sprouts + parmesean sounds delish!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 2010 in review « T-Bones and Tofu - January 2, 2011

    […] The busiest day of the year was January 25th with 111 views. The most popular post that day was Spicy Sauteed Brussel Sprouts (for Vegetarians or Carnivores). […]

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