Za’atar Roasted Cauliflower, Red Onion & Lentil Salad with Harissa Tahini Dressing
September 9, 2015

Za'atar Roasted Cauliflower, Red Onion & Lentil Salad with Harissa Tahini Dressing | The Full Helping

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.

Za'atar Roasted Cauliflower, Red Onion & Lentil Salad with Harissa Tahini Dressing | The Full Helping

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.

Za'atar Roasted Cauliflower, Red Onion & Lentil Salad with Harissa Tahini Dressing | The Full Helping

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.

Za'atar Roasted Cauliflower, Red Onion & Lentil Salad with Harissa Tahini Dressing | The Full Helping

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 & Lentil Salad with Harissa Tahini Dressing | The Full Helping

Za’atar Roasted Cauliflower, Red Onion, and Lentil Salad with Harissa Tahini Dressing (gluten free)

Author - Gena Hamshaw
Yields: 4 generous servings


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.

Za'atar Roasted Cauliflower, Red Onion & Lentil Salad with Harissa Tahini Dressing | The Full Helping

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!


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  1. […] I think the creamy texture of black-eyed peas makes them especially great for hummus, but what makes this recipe stand out is the addition of smoked paprika and harissa paste. Harissa is a North African hot chili pepper paste, usually made with a variety of peppers as well as garlic, coriander, caraway, and oil. It adds spiciness and flavor to food, and it can sometimes be found in the form of a ground spice powder as well (I like to keep this in my pantry and whisk it into dressings and sauces when I don’t have the paste, as with my harissa tahini dressing). […]

  2. za’atar is my favorite seasoning for roasted veggies! It adds such complexity to a dish without being overwhelming. And this tahini dressing sounds INCREDIBLE! Definitely going to have to make this very soon! xo

  3. Use real Tunisian Harissa, not powder…there is no such thing as harissa powder, it’s either harissa or harissa infused.

  4. Mmm, the harissa dressing sounds so good! I have never tried it, but have been eyeing it for a few months. I may try to make my own, and then make this!

  5. Oh no, I can’t stand night classes. I mean, they have to be really interesting to keep me awake given I’m more of a morning person. But advanced nutrition sounds like it might cut it 🙂 good luck staying focused! I’m sure this awesome salad would lift my spirits too; such amazing flavors! And they say cauliflower is boring. Hope your presentation went well!

  6. This looks amazing!! I love dipping cauliflower florets in tahini dressing, and this salad takes that to a whole new level :D. I think I’ll make it tonight!

    BTW I hope that presentation went well! I’m sure you nailed it 🙂

  7. Harissa powder is a thing?? What!! I get the jars of harissa from time to time, but since they need to stay refrigerated, I don’t use them as much as I’d like. I need to find some harissa powder so it can be a staple in my kitchen 😉

  8. what a lovely looking salad – I love roasted cauliflower, hot or cold, and this looks like a good blend of ingredients – bet it was filling, too!

  9. Oh, night classes. That would bring back some memories for sure! This salad is just the kind of thing I’m in the mood for, and I’m all about the dressing these days, so am pinning and will be making this very soon. Thanks for another amazing recipe!