Caramelized Tofu and Brussels Sprouts

Consider this my apology for the mountain of sin that I posted a couple of days ago. I realize that you think I’ve probably gone off the deep end, presenting two of the most loathed of ingredients together, and claiming that they’re (gasp) delicious. But I haven’t lost it. This is a tasty, fast meal and it just couldn’t get any healthier (or cheaper!).

I love brussels sprouts. Not only are the diminutive cabbages cute but, when roasted or caramelized, they take on a sweet, nutty flavor. I have trouble not ordering them when I see them on a menu. If your’e a New Yorker, I would suggest getting over to Alta in the WV as quickly as possible and ordering the brussels sprouts. Your life will be changed. No joke. I admit that they may not be for everyone, but if you decided long ago that you hate them, probably when you were still rocking french-rolled jeans, then you should really revisit them; I bet you your opinion will change.

Tofu gets a bum rap in my opinon. Most people consider it flavorless and questionable, texture-wise. It’s true that the flavor is mild so that when it’s paired with particularly strong flavors, it’s own disappears. But tofu does have a flavor, and I think it’s lovely: slightly sweet and reminiscent of soy milk (for obvious reasons). It comes in a variety of different textures, from extra-soft to extra-firm and all have they’re proper uses. The slightly spongy texture of medium or firm tofu, I think, is probably what’s off-putting to most people. However, an extra-firm tofu that’s been seared on high heat retains none of the sponge, and becomes brown and crispy with a soft, sweet interior. You really should try it.

This dish is quick meal for me. It’s cheap—if you’ve never bought these ingredients before, you’ll be shocked—and it’s healthy as all get out. I eat this regularly during the winter months when I was something warming and healthy but don’t have much time or many fresh veggies to work with. It has those savory and sweet components that I love: Cabbage and garlic caramelized with brown sugar and topped with pecans for crunch.  I know you’re probably still doubtful, but come on, try something new; you’ll be glad you did.

And please don’t worry, I have something totally indulgent to make up for this earnestness-overload planned for later in the week.

Caramelized Tofu and Brussels Sprouts

Adapted only a tiny bit from 101 Cookbooks. Serves 2

101 Cookbooks is a fabulous blog centering on natural, healthy eating. The only change I make to this recipe is to increase the proportion of brussels sprouts. I have made it with and without the nuts and it’s lovely both ways.

1 T. olive oil, divided
7 – 8 ounces extra-firm tofu cut into thin 1-inch segments
salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c pecans, toasted and chopped (Optional)
3 T brown sugar
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
1 lb. brussels sprouts, cut into 1/8-inch wide ribbons

  • In a large, hot skillet, heat 1/2 T. oil and brown the tofu with a pinch of salt. Cook until golden on both sides
  • Add the garlic and pecans and cook for 1 minute
  • Add the sugar and cook for a 2 minutes, tossing the ingredients, until the sugar is melted and caramelized
  • Remove the contents of the skillet to a plate, stir in the cilantro and set aside
  • To the same pan over medium-high heat, add the other 1/2 T. oil and a pinch of salt
  • When the oil is hot, add the brussels sprouts and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring once in a while, until you get some golden edges and the rest of the sprouts are tender, but still bright in color
  • I would stop when the sprout are done as described above, but if you like your sprouts softer, you can add a teaspoon of water to the pan and cover with a lid to steam them a little bit
  • Return the tofu to the pan and warm through…serve

In the same pan (no need to wash), add a touch more oil, another pinch of salt, and dial the heat up to medium-high. When the pan is nice and hot stir in the shredded brussels sprouts. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring a couple times (but not too often) until you get some golden bits, and the rest of the sprouts are bright and delicious.


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