Our foray into eating vegetarian would have ended a long time ago (for me it may have never started) if it were not for the Fab Five, mushrooms, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, eggplants, and potatoes.  Admittedly, vegetables have always been relegated to the side dish category, an afterthought to that juicy ribeye or grilled chicken.   Vegetables were like breadth requirements, something you were required to have.  Taking meat out of the diet meant finding ways to bring vegetables front and center, making them the star attraction. Just steaming broccoli or microwaving frozen corn wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

DSC00932The magic bullet, roasting.  With winter upon us (which in Californians’ warped minds means temperatures in the low 50’s..brrr, put on a sweatshirt) we have taken to roasting our vegetables, especially the fab 5.  Roasting intensifies the flavor of the vegetables,  the caramelized edges add a smoky sweet flavor and everything ends up crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. We often roast or grill portabello mushrooms that stand in well for burger patties or diced and mixed with roasted potatoes, corn and poblanos for a taco filling, yum.

Meat?  Who needs meat?

Lucky for me brussels sprouts and cauliflower are trending.  Every restaurant serves sprouts or cauliflower roasted, grilled, or stir fried.  I never jumped on the kale bandwagon but give me a bowl of sprouts or cauliflower and I’m happy, happy, happy.  Perusing online I found a recipe adapted from Denis Lee’s Namu.  It looked easy to make and sounded delicious.  For Namu’s recipe you can stir fry or roast the brussel sprouts first.  I roasted my vegetables and used a combination of both.  The recipe calls for soy dashi (a combination of fish stock and soy sauce) and ponzu (citrus soy sauce).  Both products can be found in any Japanese market.  Don’t sweat the soy dashi, there are hon dash’s or sauces made for noodles that you can easily substitute.  The bonito flakes are also found in Japanese markets.  To make this kinda vegetarian, omit the guanciale (bacon, pancetta) and substitute shaved parmesan for the bonito flakes to add some salty contrast.  For the soy dashi, try a mushroom broth 1:1 with soy sauce.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Ponzu, Fried Garlic, Guanciale, and Bonito Flakes

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Ponzu, Fried Garlic, Guanciale, and Bonito Flakes


  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts Can use cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces.
  • 1⁄4 lb. guanciale Use pancetta or bacon instead did not boil
  • 1 tablespoon fried garlic Use chopped garlic and roast with vegetables
  • 4 oz. ponzu
  • 4 oz. soy dashi
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Extra virgin olive oil Shichimi or Togarashi spice Bonito flakes


    I use cauliflower or brussel sprouts or a combination of both, cut into bite size pieces. Use pancetta or bacon in place of guanciale. Roast vegetables with bacon and chopped garlic, no need to blanch vegetables. Finish in skillet.
  • Half the heads keeping the leaves together.
  • Optional step: Blanch the Brussels sprouts. Always blanch in a large pot (large enough that it won't stop boiling when you drop the sprouts into it) of water with a healthy dose of salt (2-3 tablespoons). While waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath. Boil the sprouts until they turn bright green, then immediately shock them in the ice bath. This can be done up to a day in advance and the sprouts can be stored, in the refrigerator covered. The Brussels sprouts or cauliflower can either be roasted or pan fried.
  • Roast the sprouts, chopped garlic and bacon/pancetta in the oven at 400 degrees F until golden brown with enough olive oil to coat, making sure to stir it every 10 minutes or so to get an even color. Cook al dente as you will be sautéing to finish the dish. (~35 minutes)
  • Once everything is nicely browned, add ponzu and soy dashi. Be careful as the pan will be very hot and will sizzle when you add the wet ingredients.
  • Let this reduce to the desired flavor, making sure to regularly toss the sprouts, it can be pretty salty so taste as you go along.
  • Top with shichimi and bonito flakes.
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