I’m a big fan of sweet/sour dishes because they deliver a big punch of flavor. Just about every cuisine features something that’s sweet and sour. Think Chinese sweet and sour chicken, shrimp, or pork; or German Sauerbraten; or Italian agrodolce, where vinegar and sugar unite to bump the flavor of a dish up to new heights.
I drew inspiration from Samin Nosrat’s recipe for roasted squash and Brussels sprouts in a red onion agrodolce from her ground-breaking book, "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat" (Simon & Schuster, 2017). Her recipe has roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts doused with a mildly garlic-flavored red onion, olive oil and red wine vinegar sauce. It’s straightforward, easy, and can be made ahead.
I’ve modified her recipe by using only the solid portion of the squash and cutting it into thicker, uneven pieces. I’ve increased the red onion and decreased the oil and vinegar. I added brown sugar instead of granulated white sugar. And I omitted the mint leaves tossed in at the end. I’ve also upped the heat a bit with cayenne.
So what to serve with this side dish? How about meat loaf? Roast chicken would be good, or sautéed fish fillets, or pork chops, or veggie patties. You could also just make the agrodolce and spoon it over grilled eggplant or deep-fried crispy tofu, or a plain baked potato.
And don’t feel bound by roasting both the butternut squash and Brussels sprouts. If you like just one of those vegetables, then use all sprouts or all squash. Or let roasted parsnips and carrots stand in for the squash and sprouts. Both love sweet and sour sauces.
Experiment! Have fun! Happy cooking!
Sweet/Sour Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash
Makes 6 servings.
This is a great make-ahead dish because it’s delicious warm or at room temperature. For this recipe, and for evenness of cooking, it’s best to use only the solid part of the butternut squash. So you’ll need a large one, about 4 pounds, or two medium ones. Save the rest of the squash to make soup or purée. When buying Brussels sprouts, try to find medium ones, again for even cooking. The red onion sweet and sour part of the dish brings all the flavors together.
Solid portions of 2 medium or 1 large butternut squash, peeled
1 to 1 1/4 pounds Brussels sprouts, medium size
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
1. Cut the squash flesh crosswise into slices about 3/4-inch thick and cut each slice into unevenly shaped 1 1/2-inch pieces. Measure 4 cups of squash and put them into a large bowl.
2. Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts and remove any loose outer leaves. Cut each sprout lengthwise in half, and set aside.
3. Adjust 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have ready two large rimmed baking sheets (17-by-11-by-1-inch; sometimes labeled as 18-by-12-by-1-inch).
4. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch or two of cayenne and toss to coat the squash evenly. Spread the squash pieces out evenly on one of the baking sheets.
5. Put the trimmed sprouts into the bowl, and add 2 to 3 tablespoon olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch or two of cayenne. Toss to coat evenly and arrange the sprouts in a single layer on the baking sheet.
6. Place both sheets in the oven and bake until the vegetables test tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 25 minutes. Rotate sheets once during baking for even cooking and browning, and start testing after 20 minutes in the oven.
7. As the vegetables cook, cut the onion in half vertically, then cut crosswise into thin slices. Combine the onions and vinegar in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, brown sugar, a pinch or two of cayenne and garlic, and stir together well. Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed.
8. When the vegetables are nicely browned and test tender with the knife, cool them about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a large serving bowl. Stir the onion sauce to recombine and pour it over the vegetables. Fold everything together gently, taste carefully, and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.