Spice-roasted cauliflower + chickpeas with Israeli cous cous, golden raisins + ghee-toasted pine nuts

With winter disappearing and then reappearing again (snow is falling as I write this, but it’s supposed to be around 70F in a few days!), I am turning to lots of comforting dishes and warming spices to heat up from the inside out. I’ve also been in a major lazy-cook phase lately, and nothing could be easier on a weeknight than a sheet-pan dinner. All that’s required is a quick raid of the crisper drawer and pantry to grab anything that looks like it might enjoy being roasted — broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, zucchini, onions, peppers, garlic, potatoes, squash, etc etc — cut ’em all into bite-sized pieces, season, toss onto a pan, roast until browned and crispy and eat! Serve with a cooked grain or pasta, or a slice of toasted and buttered sourdough, maybe put an egg on it, and you’re good to go.

In this case I chose cauliflower as the main player (if you’re not a cauliflower fan, try it roasted — an utterly different vegetable vs steamed or boiled) along with chickpeas and a curry-inspired spice blend — cumin, coriander, turmeric and fennel. Israeli cous cous, which has a lovely silken texture and becomes extra delicious when it absorbs the lemon juice and spices, keeps the dish tender and comforting, but if you prefer a whole grain, brown rice, bulgur wheat, quinoa or millet are good alternatives. The tahini yogurt sauce, tangy and pungent with pomegranate molasses, garlic, and lemon, is a must-have in my book, but if you prefer to go without just add a little extra lemon juice to the finished dish.

Two ingredients really make this dish: shaved raw celery and golden raisins. So don’t skip these components. The fresh crunch and bright, herbal flavor of the celery are a perfect contrast to the mellow roasted veggies and tender cous cous, and the raisins are a perfect pop of natural sweetness and chewiness that brings out the flavors of the spices and ties everything together. Without them the dish wouldn’t be the same.

Spice-roasted cauliflower + chickpeas with Israeli cous cous, golden raisins + ghee-toasted pine nuts
Serves 4 as an main course

1 cauliflower (approx. 1 lb), trimmed of leaves and core, and cut into bite-sized florets (about 4 cups)
2-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced into rings (I included the seeds)
extra-virgin olive oil
Celtic or kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ghee, butter, or olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup Israeli cous cous

1/4 cup golden raisins
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced on the bias (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

juice of 1 lemon

tahini-yogurt sauce:
3 tablespoons unsalted tahini
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a silicone mat.

In a large bowl combine cauliflower, chickpeas, onion, and jalapeño. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of black pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds. Toss to combine. Transfer to prepared sheet pan and roast until cauliflower is tender and lightly browned and chickpeas are crisp-edged, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir mixture and rotate pan halfway through. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat ghee in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add pine nuts and toast, stirring often, until lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cool for a few minutes.

Cook cous cous in plenty of salted water according to package directions until al dente. Drain and add to bowl with vegetable and chickpea mixture. Toss to combine.

Add pine nuts, raisins, celery, parsley, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons olive oil to bowl with vegetables and cous cous. Toss to combine, taste, and season with salt and black pepper, if needed.

Whisk together tahini, yogurt, garlic, molasses, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add water until the sauce has a pourable, honey-like consistency. Season with salt to taste.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a generous drizzle of tahini-yogurt sauce.

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