Sunday, October 14, 2012

Restaurant Inspiration - ilili Brussels Sprouts with Fig, Yogurt, Walnuts & Grapes

Ever wonder which Neurotic Kitchen recipe gets the most action? Of course not. But it will come as no surprise that such questions take up a large part of my brain space. 

NK's most popular post of all time was last spring's feature on Ramps, or Wild Leeks that are available for just a few weeks each year, making them an uber-popular foodie favorite.  Check it out HERE

Who's the runner up?  NK's Weeknight Brussels Sprouts.
NK's Weeknight Brussels Sprouts. Recipe HERE

My original recipe for everyday Brussels Sprouts is easy, reasonably healthy, and a crowd-pleaser, but I must say, the consistent popularity of these humble Sprouts both surprises and delights me. I think it's safe to assume that Brussels Sprouts have finally edged their way up the food chain taking a place of well deserved honor, their bad reputation a distant memory. Way to go, little guys! 

Today's restaurant copy-cat Sprout side is the polar opposite of its simpler Neurotic Kitchen predecessor. Created by the chefs at ilili in NYC (, a fantastic upscale Lebanese/Mediterranean restaurant that's SO well worth a visit, this dish is so incredibly unexpected, creative, and complex - you'll be thinking about it for days. 

When was the last time you fantasized about a veggie side as much as the main event? They are that good. 

ilili Brussels Sprouts get their sweetness from a drizzle of fig puree, their richness from a few swirls of creamy Yogurt, and a pleasant crunch from the crispy outer layer of the roasted (or deep-fried) Sprouts and a sprinkle toasted walnuts. Additions like juicy Grapes, Sherry Vinegar, and Mint Sprigs lend extra brightness. Hungry yet? 

The perfect dinner party side or Thanksgiving offering, Ilili Brussels Sprouts may take a bit of planning, but they are actually quite easy to make. Don't be scared off by the volume of steps below - I have included perhaps too ample directions so you too can get them just right! I chose to roast these Sprouts, though the restaurant typically deep fries them. If you are curious about the original recipe, you can find it HERE.
Photo: NK

ilili Brussels Sprouts
Lightly Adapted from ilili Restaurant, NYC 
Serves 2-3 as a side dish

1 lb Brussels Sprouts
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Mint Yogurt, Recipe Follows*
Fig Puree, Recipe Follows*  
4 Tablespoon Toasted Walnuts, slightly crumbled. 
6 - 8 Tablespoons Seedless Red Grapes sliced into halves or thirds.
1/2 teaspoon Sherry Vinegar  or to taste
Equipment - a baking sheet with sides or shallow roasting pan and 2 one gallon ZipLoc bags

Straining the Fig Puree, Photo: NK

Fig Puree*  
Yields enough for 1 batch serving 2-3
Can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature or warm slightly before using.
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Fig jam 

Method - Combine Jam and Water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow to cook, gently boiling, for another 2-3 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens and is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and strain out and discard any solids. Alternatively, you can puree the mixture in a mini blender. Set aside. 

Preparing the Mint Yogurt, Photo: NK 

Mint Yogurt*
Yields enough for 1 batch serving 2-3 plus extra.Can be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated. 
3/4 Cup (6 Oz) Plain Low Fat Yogurt - Emmi Swiss has great consistency and flavor
1 Tablespoon Water
3 Heaping Tbsp Mint, very finely minced
1/4 to 1/2 Teaspoon Salt* 

Method - Combine Yogurt, Mint, and Water. Stir to incorporate. Next, start by stirring in a 1/4 teaspoon of Salt first and taste.* If you choose to add another 1/4 teaspoon Salt, you may find the Yogurt very salty. In the end, when all flavors are combined, the extra saltiness becomes very balanced, but I have a salty palate so use your discretion! You can always add more Salt later if you prefer. 

Overall Preparation Method:
Place your oven rack in the upper middle position and preheat oven to 500. 
Clean and fully dry Sprouts. Remove some of the loose, outer leaves, especially the smaller yellow ones, and trim the woody Sprout base just enough to shorten it without cutting  it so high that you sever the part that holds all the sprout leaves together. Pour Sprouts into a gallon ZipLoc bag and add a Tablespoon of Olive oil. Seal the bag and give it a good few shakes and squish it around with your hands so that Oil is distributed evenly. Next, spread Sprouts out evenly on a baking sheet and place in the oven. 

*If you haven't already prepared your Mint Yogurt or Fig Puree, now is the time, while your Sprouts are cooking. Both sauces come together fast! 

Cook Sprouts for about 18 minutes, shaking the pan twice or more throughout the cooking process to turn the Sprouts and cook them evenly. If you like your Sprouts more well done and less al dente, cook for up to 20 minutes - you can feel free to remove a few extra-browned leaves that may result once you are done and Sprouts have cooled slightly. Instructions for that follow. 

When cooking is done, the Brussels Sprouts will emerge partially browned and crispy on the outside but the first interior leaves should be green and the Sprout itself should be tender but not mushy. Even if they look very browned to you, don't worry - it will all taste great in the end. If there are some overly browned parts that seem too burnt/bitter, feel free to let Sprouts cool a bit and peel just a few of the darker leaves off and discard. When in doubt, taste! 

Let Sprouts cool slightly and place in another ZipLoc bag or bowl. Pour in half a teaspoon of Sherry Vinegar, seal, and give the bag a good shake. Sprinkle ever so slightly with Salt if you choose. 

To Serve:
Plate your Sprouts in one serving bowl, alternating layers of Sprouts, Grapes, and Walnuts.

Next, the two sauces should be drizzled over everything in a crosshatch pattern. You should use about 4 Tablespoons of the Fig Puree and 4-5 Tablespoons of the Mint Yogurt. Do not over-sauce, you can always serve the extra Fig Puree and Yogurt on the side. Optionally garnish with Mint Sprigs or a sprinkling of Chopped Mint if you choose. 

In the words of Ilili Restaurant/ The Recipe Author - "You’ll know you’ve perfected the seasoning when you get the perfect bite - a balance between bitter, salty, sweet, and sour and the umami."

Photo: Neurotic Kitchen
Amazing ilili Brussels Sprouts with Mint Yogurt, Grapes, Walnuts, and Fig, Photo: NK

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  1. Just had the Brussels Sprouts at ilili two nights ago and have been dreaming about them ever since. Dying to make them at home. Thanks for the recipe!!

  2. My pleasure! This is definitely a good one. The folks at ilili deep fry their sprouts but they taste really great baked as above. I hope you enjoy!

  3. I just tried ilili. What a place! I am so excited to try this dish myself. I appreciate that you've given me a cooking option other then deep frying. My tiny kitchen always ends up like a disaster area. -Jayme

  4. I had these at the restaurant several years ago and it totally changed my view of brussel sprouts. I cannot explain the happiness I felt when I saw this post. I never imagined recreating them myself. Thank you for sharing! Are there any other recipes of this caliber on here that I should try? - Christina

  5. Christina, your comment made me smile! I am so happy you enjoyed the post. Not all sprout recipes are created equal, but you're absolutely right the ilili's version is a standout. Our adaptations were slight and just enhance the ease of prep. The other sprout recipe I routinely make is my own "weeknight brussels sprouts." This recipe is good if you now like sprouts enough to enjoy them relatively au natural. I also highly recommend this brussels sprouts hash - I do go lighter on the butter and oil when I make it. Enjoy and thanks for reading :)))

  6. Thanks, Sam. I will!

  7. Yayyy.. I am so happy I found you. I had these sprouts for my birthday back in may and was completely taken by the flavor of this amazing side dish. So want to make it!! Thank you.. MG

  8. Well I am glad you stopped by! Hope you enjoy and I look forward to hearing from you. The weekend is here so I hope everyone has a great one :) SAM

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