It’s been a long time since I had night class. It was a regular feature of life during my post bacc–class, or if not class itself, study nights in the library. I’ve gotten spoiled during the past year by being able to spend my evenings at home; even if I worked into the evening, I still had my own space to take refuge in, and usually the chance to whip up dinner for Steven and me (which is one of my favorite rituals for decompressing).
As I write this post, I’m hanging out on campus, waiting for my 7-9 class to begin, and it’s bringing back all sorts of memories. It’s a little strange, but it will only happen once a week this semester, so I can’t rightly complain. And I have this wonderful salad packed up in my backpack to keep me company.
This salad is full of big texture and big flavor–two essential components of a meal-sized salad. It was created with Middle Eastern influences in mind, namely the za’atar dusting on the roasted veggies and the swirl of harissa in the tahini dressing. I love these flavors, and they add so much character to a simple marriage of ingredients.
Roasting the veggies for this salad and cooking the lentils are the most time-consuming step; everything else gets tossed or whisked together in a flash. If you like, you can roast the vegetables and/or prep the lentils a day in advance (that’s what I did when I made it), and you can definitely used canned lentils to save yourself a cooking step, too.
Dressings often take center stage in my salad making process, and the tahini harissa concoction in this salad is certainly no exception. It’s super tasty, and you can make it hotter or less hot by adjusting how much harissa you add (I’m a wimp, and I don’t add a whole lot). I used harissa powder because it’s what I have, but the paste will also be great.
Za’atar Roasted Cauliflower, Red Onion, and Lentil Salad with Harissa Tahini Dressing (gluten free)
For the Salad:
- 3/4 cup dry brown green, or Le Puy lentils, picked over (substitute 2 cups cooked lentils, or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
- 1 medium head cauliflower washed and chopped into bite-sized florets (about 1 3/4 lbs after prepping)
- 1 large red onion sliced
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed safflower, canola, or coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons za'atar spice mix
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 4 heaping cups arugula
For the harissa tahini dressing:
- 1/3 cup tahini paste
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 large clove garlic crushed or very finely minced
- 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice about 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon harissa powder or paste more or less, depending on your tolerance for heat
- Preheat your oven to 400F. If you're cooking lentils from scratch, mix the dry lentils in a saucepan with enough water to cover them by two inches. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are still tender but retain their shape and firmness. You can start testing them at the 20 minute mark for doneness. Drain the lentils and set them aside.
- While the lentils cook, toss the cauliflower florets and sliced onion with the oil, za'atar, lemon, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Spread the veggies onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Roast the vegetables for 20-25 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and lightly browning, and the onions are getting crispy. Check on the veggies and stir them on the sheet halfway through roasting. Allow the roasted vegetables to cool to room temperature.
- While the veggies roast, whisk together the tahini, water, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and harissa to make the dressing. If it's too thick, add a few extra tablespoons of water.
- When the vegetables are cool, toss them together with the lentils and arugula. You can either pour the dressing over the whole salad and toss to coat, or you can plate the salad and serve it separately. If you want to keep salad leftovers, I recommend dressing each plate individually. Salad leftovers will keep for two days in an airtight container in the fridge, and the dressing will keep for up to five days.
This is most definitely a nutrient dense salad, but I think pairing it with a nice soup (like my carrot, turmeric and ginger soup) would be a perfect accompaniment. Things are a little less glamorous here on campus, and I’m eating it with an apple and a snack bar. Student life!
Fortunately, really tasty food will brightens spirits and surroundings wherever you go. I’m glad I have this recipe by my side tonight, as I prep for making a presentation in my Advanced Nutrition class (signing up to be first to go sounded like such a great idea last week, and now…gulp) and enjoy the sights and sounds of the hallways here at Teacher’s College. It’s quiet right now, as the last class hasn’t let out yet, and I only hear occasional footsteps and (curiously) some jazz down the hall. All in all, not a bad way to spend an evening after all.
Hope you’ll love the salad, everyone. I’ll be back on Friday with a new Green Recovery story for you!