Thursday, March 28, 2013

Miso Maple Brussels Sprouts & Green Beans: Adventures in one-handed cooking


The night before I moved into my current apartment, I had a complete meltdown.

Not because of anything practical like being sad to leave my roommates (I wasn't), nor because I was worried about being able to afford rent and utilities on my own, nor even because I was concerned the movers would scuff my hardwood floors.

My meltdown was entirely centered around my stove.

I'd received a phone call from the gas company indicating that they hadn't been able to access my building that day and likely wouldn't be able to come back until the following week. Meaning, no hot water, no heat, and the kicker -- no functioning stove or oven for six days.

I completely lost it. Clutching the phone to my ear, I sobbed big, sloppy tears, throwing the type of tantrum that is usually only reserved for toddlers who drop their ice cream cones on the floor or contestants on "The Bachelor."

Ultimately, I was able to convince the gas company to come back the following day and everything worked its merry little way out like most things we fret about tend to do, but in the moment, I was the reason men think women are emotional.

Cooking is my life line.
Partially because of the end result (I get to eat food), but also because the process steadies and calms me like few things that don't involve alcohol and masochistic exercise can. After a stressful 11-hour work day, I crave the release of those studied motions.

Rinsing quinoa. Whisking together miso paste with rice vinegar and maple syrup. De-stemming Brussels sprouts.

The routine of it is as essential to my daily life as brushing my teeth or writing or drinking my morning gallon of green tea. Enough so that I'll regularly turn down invitations to go out to the new of-the-moment restaurant because I need that time.

To hear the sizzle of oil in a hot pan. To smell the aroma of roasted vegetables emanating from the oven. To feel the smooth handle of my Wusthof knife in my hand.

When I fractured my finger, one of the first things the woman who helped me said when I emerged from the E.R. with my mummified left hand, was "How are you going to cook?"

"I'll be fine," I responded, unconcerned.

And meant it.

Cooking is a non-negotiable to me, and broken finger or not, I needed it. I needed to be able to eat my quinoa and cook my oatmeal and roast the heck out of ten pounds of Brussels sprouts before they give way to asparagus and English peas.

I also needed to prove to myself that I could do it.

While the past three weeks haven't been easy, I've more or less adapted to a one-handed existence. I've discovered simple recipes that don't require complex or precise movements, much like I've found ways to put on a bra and type proficiently with only my right hand.

This recipe for miso maple Brussels sprouts and green beans with tofu has been one of my go-to's during this period of semi incapacity. Mostly because it only requires a baking sheet and the pot I use to prepare the requisite quinoa accompaniment, but also because it is simply delicious. The miso maple dressing seeps into the crevices of the halved Brussel sprouts, softening any lingering bitterness and coaxing out their underlying sweetness, while the crisp cubes of tofu fight back with welcome heft and texture.

It's the kind of dish that comforts without any unnecessary complications. The perfect fix for an emotional girl who lives by her stove.

And, for now, her right hand.

Miso Maple Brussels Sprouts and Green Beans with Tofu
Inspired by the Miso Maple Brussels Sprouts at Cafe Gratitude
Serves 2

15 Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed and halved
5 ounces extra-firm tofu, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
15 green beans, sliced into 1-inch pieces (I've also used first of the season asparagus with great success)
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Sriracha, to taste
Salt & Pepper

Suggested Accompaniments: Quinoa, Brown Rice, Soba Noodles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place baking sheet oven in oven while heating.

Carefully remove hot baking sheet from oven. Place tofu and Brussels sprouts on the sheet and drizzle with olive oil to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread tofu and sprouts out, flipping the sprouts so the inside of each half is face down.

Roast for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven to stir and add the green beans. Continue roasting for another 15 minutes or until beans are tender and the sprouts and tofu are crisp, but not burned.

While the veggies are roasting, combine miso, vinegar, maple syrup, sesame oil, and a few drops of sriracha in a small bowl. Whisk till well-combined and completely smooth.

When all ingredients are sufficiently roasted to the aforementioned specifications, remove baking sheet from the oven. Toss hot veggies and tofu with the miso dressing and serve immediately, preferably over quinoa, but brown rice and soba noodles will also do quite well here.


the actor's diet said...

I think you may need to write a one-handed cookbook!

Diana said...

Lynn - LOL, that would be amazing! One-handed Quinoa! ;)

Jessica said...

brussell sprouts are my favorite!


Apples and Butter said...

So relate to the meltdown! I had one of my own this week. Sometimes I think we are crazy emotional, but it's only because we are crazy strong and shoulder so much as women, from time to time we have to break down. It's cathartic! Like you, I love finding solace in the kitchen.

Congrats on the new place!

Diana said...

Jessica - Mine too! I have an unnatural obsession with them... have been going through pounds of them lately!

Jessica (2!) - I agree... sometimes nothing feels better than a really hardcore cry session to get all that crazy emotion out! Always feel calmer after.