ISSUE 2  |  Edible Winter Garden

Garden-to-Table Recipe: Mollie Katzen’s Smoky Brussels Sprouts and Onion

January 13, 2014 2:30 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

 The rap on vegetarian recipes in the 1970s was that many were so loaded with cheese and butter that they might as well have been desserts. Not so these days. “Nowadays the ingredients we can get are so great that you don’t even have to do anything to them,” says Mollie Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook (my first cookbook, and perhaps yours). In her new cookbook, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, she demonstrates what she means. Here, she makes her Smoky Brussels Sprouts and Onion recipe:

For ingredients and step-by-step instructions, see below:

Photographs by John Merkl.

Above: This is a perfect weeknight dish because you can  trim, slice, and blanch the brussels sprouts a few days ahead–on Saturday or Sunday, when you are feeling relaxed–and store them in the refrigerator until you need them. 

Above: Mollie trims off the bottoms of each sprout, then halves or quarters it depending on its size. But no pressure. “If that seems like too much work, leave them whole,” she suggests.

Above: The secret to this recipe is patience: let the blanched sprouts sit undisturbed in the skillet until they get brown and crispy. Then stir in some softened onion, wait a few more minutes, and serve.

Above: The Heart of the Plate is $23.78 from Amazon.

Smoky Brussels Sprouts and Onion

Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 cup onions, chopped and sauteed until soft
  • 2 pounds 5-minute-blanched, halved or quartered Brussels sprouts
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon (negotiable) or more smoked paprika and/or chipotle powder
  • Up to ½ teaspoon salt 
  • Black pepper


Put on a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, trim and halve or quarter the sprouts (unless tiny) and add them to the water when it boils. Let them simmer for from three to five minutes, or until mostly tender.  Drain them thoroughly in a colander, shaking them dry.

Place a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute, than add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Sprinkle in the paprika and/or chipotle powder, spreading the seasoning into the oil to get the flavor distributed.

Add the drained Brussels sprouts, using tongs to arrange as many of the sprouts as your patience permits cut-side down. Sprinkle in ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and let the sprouts cook, moving and rearranging the sprouts occasionally –scraping the pan, as necessary–for about eight minutes, or until they become soft and shaggy . To check on their smokiness, pull out and taste a leaf.  If you want deeper flavor, sprinkle in more powder, directly onto the sprouts, and mix it in.

Push some of the sprouts aside to make a little space, then add the sauteed onions, along with an additional drizzle of oil. Salt the onions lightly, and cook for another five to ten minutes, stirring often, until the sprouts are deeply colored and the onions are shiny and sweet. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. 

Optional Enhancements:

  • Top each serving with olive oil-fried eggs.
  • Deglaze the pan with bread crumbs or a thick slice of fresh bread. (Add some extra oil to the pan, scraping into it some of what might have stuck, and toast the crumbs or bread directly in this flavor bonanza.) 
  • Diced potatoes (up to ½ pound) can accompany the Brussels sprouts all the way from the cutting board to the blanching water to the skillet.
  • Throw in some spinach (a few handfuls of clean baby leaves) when you add the onion.
  • Top the dish with diced ripe, sweet tomato in season (or halved, very sweet cherry tomatoes).
  • Drip on a few drops of red or white wine vinegar or serve with a squeeze-able wedge of lemon.
  • Add up to a teaspoon minced or crushed garlic with the onion.

Getting ready for Thanksgiving? See all our Holiday Prep tips for entertaining.

Earlier today, we visited Mollie Katzen at home. For more easy dinner suggestions, see Kitchen Visit: Eating from Mollie Katzen’s Winter Garden in Berkeley.