Femme Friday – Karen Akunowicz

This post is dedicated to my father, who always encouraged adventurous eating and who taught me how to cook. Happy 87th, Baba!

Karen Akunowicz is the executive chef and partner at Boston’s South End Restaurant, Meyers + Chang, is the co-author of a cookbook, Meyers + Chang At Home. She received three “Best Chef Northeast” nominations from the James Beard awards, and was on Season 13 of the show, “Top Chef”.

Deep gratitude to Karen for teaching us how to whomp up some Sweet-and-Sour Brussels Sprouts, for all the love and hard work she puts into preparing delicious and adventurous food, and for making sure the article about her in Spirit Magazine included the fact that she’s a proud queer femme!

Here is recipe for the Sprouts! There are other great recipes on her website:


And if you’re ever in Boston, be sure to take yourself over to Meyers + Chang for some superior and exquisite nosh!

Sweet-And-Sour Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts (cut in half)
4 Tablespoons of fresh mint (sliced)
1/4 cup of canola oil 2 large shallots (sliced very thin)
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 c salt 1/4 c sugar
1 inch of ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 dried chili
1 cup quinoa (white or red)
2 quarts of water
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes salt+pepper to season

Directions for the quinoa
Bring the two quarts of water up to a rolling boil and add the quinoa, stirring. Simmer for 8 minutes and drain well. When the quinoa is cool, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauté pan. Add the quinoa and stir until crunchy and toasted, season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Directions for the hot and sweet sauce
Place sugar, rice wine vinegar and red pepper flakes in a sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce until it is the consistency of thin maple syrup. Set aside. (This is the “sweet” in sweet and sour)

Directions for the pickled shallots
Combine 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of salt, 1 cup of rice wine vinegar ginger, garlic and chili in a small pot and heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely. Slice shallots very thin and soak with pickling liquid. (This provides the sour component to the dish)

Directions for the Brussels
Heat a large flat bottomed sauté pan with 1/4 cup of canola oil. Place the Brussels in the pan one by one, cut side down, season with salt and pepper. When the Brussels brown nicely (on the cut side) add 4 tablespoons of water to the pan and let evaporate on medium heat. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a bowl and dress with hot and sweet sauce, pickled shallots and fresh mint. Finish with a 1/2 cup of toasted quinoa on top.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess with the goal of fostering queer femme community. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story!

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)