One of the things I love most about my Indianapolis neighborhood is not the houses or the old trees or the parks. While those are wonderful, the best part is this: walkability. I grew up in the suburbs in Minnesota, and we had to drive everywhere. Most places were a 10 to 20-minute car ride away. But when I moved to Indianapolis after graduating college, I gradually found that the city was structured in a way where you could walk to things. I walked to the grocery store and to the coffee shop, to the produce stand in an old gas station, and to the little shack transformed into an ice cream shop. The more I walked, the more I loved it. I felt connected to my place in a way that’s not easily put into words.
Recently, I had the honor of speaking with an incredible entrepreneur, Majora Carter. She’s been working in urban revitalization and real estate development for years, and gave one of the first ever TED talks back in 2006. She lives in the South Bronx, and has been working to beautify her community for years. One of the things that struck me from her work was that she surveys people about what the ideal community they want to live in looks like. Time and time again, cafes, restaurants, and good grocery stores are at the top of the list.
The fact that I live so close to places offering quality food and gathering spaces literally endears me to my community. It makes me feel like I’m part of something greater, even when I’m just walking to the grocery store or grabbing a cup of coffee. My little corner of Indianapolis is buzzing with activity: people meeting each other to chat over a drink, or picking up some ingredients for tonight’s dinner. It brings and energy and vitality to our place that is palpable. Part of Majora’s work has been to bring gathering places with quality food to low status communities. She helped start a coffee shop in the South Bronx called the Boogie Down Grind Cafe that’s a spot of beauty in a rough zip code. Along with high-quality coffee, it provides servings of vegetables, too.
This roasted Brussels sprouts recipe was inspired by one of those walkable restaurants in my neighborhood, a pub called Twenty Tap. Along with a huge craft beer list, the food is top-notch with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. And it’s a 5-minute walk from our house (or 2 minutes if I cut through my neighbor’s yard). A few weeks ago, we went with my family and among other things, ordered an appetizer with Brussels sprouts, harissa, and goat cheese. There were a few other components (and it was too spicy for most of my family) but I loved the concept and took it home to our kitchen to play with. Personally, I find Brussels sprouts are best roasted in a very hot oven so that they become blackened and crisp. I used my favorite roasting method, then mixed the Brussels sprouts with a store-bought harissa and topped them with dollops of cool goat cheese. It was so tasty that I knew we had to share the recipe here. If you’re not into spicy food, find a mild harissa for this one; it adds fantastic flavor without the heat.
Not long ago, I would have frowned at the thought of Brussels sprouts on my plate. These days, the little green guys are seeing a big comeback. I hope that they’ll continue to delight eaters everywhere, especially with creative recipes that add big flavor. We ate these as a snack for a movie, though they’d be a fantastic side dish or appetizer. Either way, they were born of the community around us: yet another reason for continuing to engage in community around us.
Looking for more Brussels sprouts recipes?
Brussels sprouts have made a major comeback, especially roasted Brussels sprouts. Here are our favorite Brussels sprouts recipes:
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This recipe is…
Vegetarian, gluten-free. For plant-based or vegan, omit the goat cheese.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Goat Cheese & Harissa
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons mild or spicy harissa (to taste)
- 2 ounces goat cheese crumbles
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Cut the Brussels sprouts off of the stalk if necessary. Cut off any hard ends, then cut each in half or larger sprouts into thirds. In a bowl, mix them with the olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes until tender and blackened (no need to stir).
- When Brussels sprouts are done, mix them with the harissa and top with goat cheese crumbles. Serve warm.