Last May, I spent a weekend down in San Francisco. I really love that city. I have been to SF more than any other city, somehow making it there at least once a year for as long as I can remember. On that particular trip, I made a trek to Omnivore Books – a charming cookbook shop. In my mind I was picturing Books for Cooks, a truly incredible cookbook shop in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London, where I spent many an hour gazing and drooling. Omnivore is decidedly less grand but still filled with incredible treasures. I had been reading about the new Ottolenghi book Plenty and was thrilled to see it at Omnivore. It had not yet been released in the States so consequently, I paid $60 for it.
Now I see the book everywhere in its American (and $35) version. I don’t regret buying mine for a second. I had it for months longer than most people stateside and I also love all the British-isms in my book. Aubergine, coriander, courgette, rocket, swede, mangetout – all words I had to get used to when we lived in London. (Side story. I went to the grocery store one day in search of a swede having no idea what it was. When the produce guy pointed it out to me, I laughed. “What a funny name for that vegetable”, I said. He asked what we call it. Rutabaga was my reply. “And that is not a weird name?” Good point.)
In addition to having charming names for vegetables, my copy has all the metric measurements. There was a time when I could rapidly double a temperature and add 32 to get Fahrenheit out of Celsius but sadly, these days I just use my Kitchen Pro app most of the time. But checking a phone repeatedly while cooking is not very efficient and so I wing it much more with this book than I would if the measurements were more “American” (read: antiquated and ridiculous).
It feels almost sacrilegious to tinker with Ottolenghi’s recipes. Both of his books have imaginative, well-spiced, interesting, and delicious food. I tend to do things more by feel and taste with his books and I have a sneaking suspicion that he would approve.
This is one of those “if you think you don’t like brussels spouts then try this!” recipes. I kind of like those smurf cabbages (my brother’s term). I loved them here. Be sure to let them get nice and brown.
One Year Ago: White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies
Two Years Ago: Garlic Ciabatta Bread and Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad
Brussels Sprouts and Tofu
Adapted from Plenty
I served this with brown rice and plenty of hot chili sauce. I used a large cast iron skillet to make the whole dish and was able to cook the sprouts and the tofu in one batch. If you have a smaller pan, I would do each of them in two batches. You want to make sure tofu and the vegetables have plenty of contact with the pan and don’t end up steaming.
2 tbsp. sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. maple syrup
12 ounces extra firm tofu
1 pound brussels sprouts
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 red chili, seeded and finely diced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
First marinate the tofu. Whisk together in a shallow dish the chili and soy sauces, the sesame oil, vinegar, and the maple syrup (I used a Pyrex pie plate). Cut the block of tofu into ½-inch thick slices and then each slice into 6 squares. Add the tofu to the marinade and gently toss. Allow to marinate, turning the pieces occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Trim the bases off the sprouts and cut each from top to bottom into three thick slices. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add just enough canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the sprouts along with a large pinch of salt and cook for about 3 minutes without stirring. You want them to brown a bit. Then stir them occasionally until they reach your desired degree of doneness (I like mine soft and not crunchy). Remove to a bowl.
Add just a bit more oil and toss in the scallions, chili, and mushrooms. Again, allow to cook and brown, about 6 minutes in all, and add to the bowl with the sprouts.
Carefully add the tofu to the pan and allow to cook for 3 minutes without stirring. Using tongs, turn each piece of tofu over and allow the other side to brown, about another 2-3 minutes. Add the contents of the sprout bowl, along with the remaining tofu marinade and the cilantro. Toss everything together gently and turn off the heat. Taste, and add salt as needed.