Confession #1–I get a lot of recipe inspiration from the local restaurant scene, how lucky am I that I live in a city full of amazing and diverse places to eat?
Confession #2–Paul and I don’t always make a big deal out of our wedding anniversary. It’s not because we don’t like each other (kinda, we do). It’s not that we aren’t happy we got hitched, I think we’d agree it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. It’s mostly due to the fact that, well, we’re both pretty low key when it comes to this stuff. Birthdays are a quiet coming and going of the day, usually highlighted by a small gift and a cupcake of choice by the one born on that day. Valentine’s day…ummm…yea….when is it again? You get the idea. Maybe this lack of celebratory exuberance is attributable to the notion that we do a pretty good job of appreciating one another on most of the other random days that aren’t designated for mandatory affection and attention. Whatever the reason, when we celebrated our most recent anniversary we decided to venture out to a restaurant that’s been on our (ever-growing) list of places to try.
Oh. Happy. Day!
An amazing meal, a refined but laid-back vibe, and a yummy champagne cocktail made for a pretty nice celebration. Admittedly better than staying home. And, I walked away with the inspiration for this recipe, which we had as an appetizer. I have made a few adjustments to accommodate what I will call the ‘average’ home cook. Because, you know, who has preserved lemons hanging out in their pantry? Prior to this amazing dish, I had never heard of aleppo pepper, so, like any curious and determined home cook, I Googled it. The good news is, it looks like it’s pretty easy to find online. The bad news is, I still needed to figure out what I had on hand to use in its place. According to many sources I saw in my Internet quest, a reasonable substitute is a combination of sweet paprika and cayenne. Awesome! Culinary curiosity satisfied, I decided to go with a harissa spice blend, mostly because I had my heart set on using it from the beginning.
Oh, and instead of preserved lemon, I just went with a fresh lemon. The end result was a little more acidic than the version I had in the restaurant, but still fresh and light. I love this recipe for so many reasons. First, Brussels sprouts, which are hands-down my favorite vegetable. Aside from the fact they’re, you know, healthy, they are so satisfying and rich when they get a good char on them. Second, chickpeas, which are just SO good when they get all crisp and toasty. I have to admit, I would have never dreamed up this recipe from my own imagination.
This is one of the reasons I love to go out, particularly to restaurants that are known for doing interesting things with plant-based ingredients. I’m telling you, once you experience the unexpectedly hearty, satisfying, and truly delicious things that can be done with fresh plants, it becomes so much easier to dump some of the, (let’s call it) ‘less fresh’ components of your diet for vegetables that are anything but salad. I promise.
This is the perfect meal for a quick vegetarian weeknight dinner (hello, Meatless Monday). Just be sure to make plenty to have leftovers for lunch the next day. I’ve also served it as a side with salmon–it would be equally good with grilled chicken. It’s just as tasty at room temperature, so it would be great for a picnic, cookout or potluck.
This has truly become one of my favorite recipes, I hope it becomes one of yours, too!