brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

It’s barely a walk from our apartment to one of our favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, the izakaya Okra Kitchen. Naming a restaurant after a polarizing vegetable is the kind of thing I could totally see myself insisting on, and I happen to be strongly on team okra, so I was sold right away. We most often find ourselves ordering their brussels sprouts, which are deep fried, sprinkled with boozy Xinjiang raisins, covered in their special sauce, and piled high with julienned radishes.

So lately I’ve been making a more home-cooked Middle Eastern version of this for quick weeknight meals and holiday celebrations, with yogurt tahini sauce, pickled apples, a little crushed red pepper, and my favorite magical thing I learned from my grandmother: roasted raisins.

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

why roast or sauté your raisins?

The difference between roasted raisins and straight-out-of-the-box is like the difference between homemade sea salt caramels and milk duds. Roasting takes them from stale, lifeless blobs to soft, chewy flavor bombs.

Even before I knew what roasted or sautéed raisins were, I loved them in riza sh’ariyeh (jeweled rice with vermicelli noodles). I’d always strategically scoop rice onto my plate to end up with extra topping. If we had guests over, I would do this as tactfully as possible, but if it was just our immediate family, all civility went out the window and I was shameless.

It wasn’t until I learned how to cook riza sh’ariyeh a couple years ago that I learned what made the raisins in it so delicious. It turns out, my grandmother sautés them briefly in butter, before sprinkling them on top of the rice. It takes so little time that it may seem like an insignificant detail, but it’s everything.

When I’m cooking on the stove, I sauté them in a little butter, but when I’m roasting, I like throwing them on the sheet pan for the last couple minutes, just until they puff up a little and caramelize slightly. In this brussels sprouts recipe, you sprinkle them on after the sprouts have started to caramelize, so they can broil for a minute or so. Top everything with yogurt tahini sauce, pickled apples, and crushed red pepper, and be sure to watch out for strategic raisin scooping at the dinner table.

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

yield: about 5 servings
active time: 15 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
download a
PDF to print

yogurt tahini sauce

  • 1 tablespoon tahini

  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt *

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 pinch salt

  • Water, as needed

  1. Combine the tahini, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and salt, and stir together until it forms a thick sauce. Stir in water, about 1 teaspoon at a time, stopping once the sauce still has some body, but is a pourable consistency (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons when developing this recipe—it will vary depending on your Greek yogurt).

quick pickled apples

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 big pinch salt

  • 1 small pinch sugar

  • 1/2 of 1 granny smith apple

  1. Combine the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and sugar in a small bowl, and stir until dissolved.

  2. Peel and julienne (or allumette) the half apple, using a mandolin or very sharp knife.

  3. Add the julienned apple to the brine (quickly so it doesn’t brown), and gently press it down with the back of a spoon until it’s submerged. Let it stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour, and then strain once it’s as tangy as you’d like.

roast veggies

  • 21 to 22 ounces (600g) brussels sprouts (about 50 small sprouts, 25 medium ones, or 17 giant ones)

  • olive oil

  • salt

  • 1/4 cup golden raisins

  • 1/2 tablespoon softened or melted butter

  • crushed red pepper

  1. Preheat the oven’s broiler.

  2. Halve the brussels sprouts, coat them in oil, place cut-side-up on a sheet pan, and season to taste.

  3. Broil the brussels sprouts for about 10 minutes (it might take as little as 5). Keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not caramelizing too quickly (if they are, move them away from the heat source, turn the temperature down, and/or remove them from the oven early).

  4. Coat the raisins in a little softened or melted butter. In the last minute of broiling, sprinkle the raisins over the brussels sprouts, and broil them for about 1 minute, just until they’re starting to swell a little and caramelize in spots. Do not let them burn, and keep a close eye on them (it might take just 30 seconds, and varies from oven to oven).

  5. Move the brussels sprouts and some of the raisins to a serving bowl, top with a few spoonfuls of yogurt tahini sauce, sprinkle the rest of the raisins over the top, and top with a heap of the apple pickles. Garnish with crushed red pepper, and serve with extra yogurt sauce on the side.

* To make this vegan, instead make a lemon tahini sauce. Also be sure to use oil instead of butter when you roast the raisins.

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

The name of this recipe is a little unfair, because there’s nothing more perfect than the tabbouleh my grandmother, mom, and great aunt make without recipes, scales, or cups. But a great recipe is different from the thing itself, and a recipe only exists to get you to delicious food. So I finally got around to recording our family recipe in grams, instead of bunches, cups, and handfuls. But at the end of the day, you don’t really need to use these precise measurements, because tabbouleh is very straightforward if you know what you’re doing.

The key to good tabbouleh is to remember that the parsley, mint, and onion are not mere garnishes, but a substantial part of the salad, so be sure to pay attention to your ratios, and adjust them to your liking. The most important ratio to pay attention to is bulgur:parsley. There’s some controversy among recipe writers about how much bulgur to add to tabbouleh, and I fall somewhere in the middle, or maybe a little more toward the bulgur-heavy side of the spectrum. One thing we can all agree on is that there shouldn’t be too much bulgur (it’s just that the definition of “too much” varies from person to person, as well as season to season).

Perhaps the reason I like to include a little more bulgur than some is that my family taught me to treat the bulgur with a little special care. So instead of boiling or steeping it in water, we like to soak it in lemon and tomato juice. This makes every bite incredibly flavorful (and it conveniently saves an extra step). But this method only works if you use fine bulgur, so don’t miss the notes at the bottom of the recipe if you want to substitute a coarser bulgur.


a perfect bowl of tabbouleh

serves 6
total time: 30 minutes
download a PDF to print

  • 150g (3/4 cup) fine burghul/bulgur #1 *

  • 425g (2 cups) minced tomatoes, with their juices (from about 3 medium tomatoes)

  • 85g (between 1/3 - 1/2 cup) lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

  • Salt to taste

  • 100g (2 cups) minced flat-leaf parsley leaves (from about 2 big bunches)**

  • 45g (3/4 cup) minced green onions (from less than 1 bunch)

  • 35g (1 cup) minced mint leaves (from about 1 big bunch, or 2 smaller ones)

  • 45g (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. If you're using fine burghul/bulgur #1, you should not cook your burghul in hot water; instead, soak the burghul in a mixing bowl with the minced tomatoes, their juices, 75 grams of the lemon juice, and a pinch of salt (to taste). Let the mixture soak while you prep the rest of the ingredients (about 20 minutes). The bulgur will continue to hydrate once you’ve mixed the salad together.

  2. Add the parsley, green onions, mint, and remaining lemon juice to the bulgur and tomato mixture, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with pepper. Mix well, and let it sit for about 10 minutes before salting and serving. You can enjoy it for about 48 hours, but if you’re making it for guests, you should serve it within about 30 minutes of mixing. Season with salt (to taste) immediately before serving.

* You can find burghul #1/fine bulgur at most Middle Eastern markets, and some international sections of grocery stores. If you can't find a source near you, you can substitute couscous, cracked wheat, or coarse bulgur. These will need to be cooked in boiling water until al dente, rinsed, strained well, and then soaked with the tomatoes and lemon juice for about ten minutes. Burghul #1 is pre-cooked and very fine, so it only needs to be soaked, rather than cooked.
** Make sure your herbs are dried very well with a towel or spin-dryer before mincing. Use the sharpest knife you have, so that you can cut through the herbs cleanly, instead of crushing them. For precision, all of the ingredients in this recipe are measured after mincing, so the 100g parsley is just the leaves themselves, not the weight of the entire bunch (make sure you buy enough).