My friend Aran has this knack for dreaming up these wicked food combinations — ones I’d never even consider or know could be possible. And it’s not like these combos of hers are just unique or just delicious — no, they’re these 4-ingredient plates that have been arranged in the purest, simplest, most beautiful way. You stare and feel like–oh, maybe THIS is what it is to fall in love…with red cabbage. With persimmon.
And I think the simplicity and purity reminds me sometimes that most of my favorite meals are just that: simple, pure, pleasantly unfussy. I want to call them rustic but that evokes a charming image of me sitting at a reclaimed wood table drinking out of a mason jar, and my reality is so much less cute.
A couple of complementary flavors and a few different textures make a really lovely meal. There’s nothing fancy required, unless you have the energy (but who does?) to fry a shallot or pickle a beet.
In fall, when I know there are so, so many fruits and veggies in season that I want to eat— like brussels sprouts and honey crisp apples and just shy of a million types of squash — creating these wholesome, minimalist combinations is how I satisfy my seasonal perma-craving for warm, roasted, hearty meals while also eating a whole lot of plants during the holidays of candy and pie and cookies.
Here’s how I make that happen: I start with a block of House Foods extra-firm tofu, press it of all of its liquid (drying the tofu gives it a nice crisp crust!), cut it into cubes, then coat those cubes in loads of garlic and chopped fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme. Using sage and rosemary — maybe because I don’t use them all that often — gives the tofu a special Thanksgiving kind of feel. It’s savory with the mildest sweetness — made even better with salty caramelized brussels sprouts, juicy sweet pear, and some soft goat cheese.
Serve this salad as a main course or even as a side dish. I hope you love it!
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ pounds brussels sprouts, halved
3 pears (anjou, bartlett, or bosc), sliced
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (½ cup)
Drain and dry the tofu: Remove the tofu from the package and drain the water. Fold a few sheets of paper towels in half, lay them on a plate, place the tofu on them, and cover the tofu with another stack of paper towels. To help press the moisture out of the tofu, place a heavy pot on top of the tofu (put a can or 2 inside the pot for extra weight) to help weigh it down or use a flat-bottomed plate topped with a heavy book. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
Remove the heavy objects and discard the paper towels. Slice the tofu width-wise into two equal rectangles. Next, cut each half into 12 cubes. Place the cubes in a large bowl and toss them carefully with the sage, rosemary, thyme, ¾ teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. On a large baking sheet, toss the brussels sprouts with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Season with the remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Roast until crispy, tender, and well-browned, about 30 minutes.
While the brussels sprouts are roasting, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the tofu in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until lightly golden, about 6 minutes. Flip the tofu and cook on the other sides, stirring and lowering the heat as needed, until lightly golden, 6 to 8 more minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.
Add the roasted brussels sprouts to the serving dish, along with the sliced pears, and crumbled goat cheese, and gently toss with the tofu. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Nutrition Information & Notes:
Nutrition Information for 4 Servings (as a main course): Calories 311, Fat 15g, Carb 29g, Fiber 11g, Sugars 11g, Protein 19g
Nutrition Information for 6 Servings (as a side dish): Calories 207, Fat 10g, Carb 19g, Fiber 8g, Sugars 7g, Protein 13g