Chickpea and Eggplant Salad

After my foodie adventure in Austin, I came home inspired but in desperate need of a detox.  After a few days of splurging, including many donut holes, a few pounds of smoked meat, and several cones of ice cream, I needed vegetables ASAP and wanted to eat something light and refresing.  I was also feeling inspired by Austin’s vegetarian culture.  Every restaurant we ate at had gluten free and/or vegetarian options.  I am not giving up meat any time soon (I love it too dearly), but I love a good vegetarian dish.  It can leave you full and satiated but not overly stuffed.

This dish is simplicity at its best.  There is no sauce or dressing, but the dish packs great flavor.  Each vegetable shines through and compliments the others.  It’s lemony, cheesey, vegetarian goodness in a bowl.  A perfect side dish or even a main dish.  Austin would be proud.

From Cinnamon Freud

1 eggplant
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, rinsed and chopped
1 cup chickpeas
15-18 Brussels sprouts, chopped
Salt, to taste
Lemon pepper, to taste*
1/2 ounce Romano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large colander, spread eggplant in a single layer.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and let stand at least 20 minutes to draw the bitterness out.  Wipe clean with paper towel.  Coarsely chop the eggplant and mix with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.  Spread eggplant on baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, until tender and golden brown.  Set aside and let cool.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter.  Add leeks and cook for 5-7 minutes, until slightly cooked.  Add eggplant, chickpeas and Brussels sprouts.  Cook for 5-6 additional minutes, until Brussels sprouts are cooked and brown on the outside.  Season with salt and lemon pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and stir in Romano cheese.  Top with additional olive oil and cheese, if desired.
Serves 2-3.

*I use Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper and love it.  You can also substitute lemon zest and freshly ground coarse black pepper to taste.

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