Kicking the Winter Blues to the Curb


Is it just me or is January kind of a tough month? All the holiday hoopla has come to an end and winter stretches ahead with its foggy gray days and scratchy throats. It’s bitterly cold and everyone you know (including yourself) is on a diet or isn’t drinking or just joined a gym. If ever there was a time to be cranky, it would be January.

Don’t get me wrong, January has its high points too. The skiing, the occasional wintry wonderland that comes from fresh snow and the best of all, the start of a brand new year.

And with a fresh start comes fresh inspiration in the kitchen. Because it’s January, cooking with lots of vegetables is high on the priority list and colorful, flavorful food is of most importance to battle the winter blues.

I don’t get over to Seattle nearly as often as I would like, but as luck would have it, I found myself in the city for 24 blissful kid-free hours. The highlight of the getaway was an early morning stroll through Pike’s Place Market, latte in hand, no agenda or small person to keep track of. I walked into Market Spice, a bulk tea and spice shop in the heart of the Market. Sourcing spices from over 70 countries from around the world, Market Spice was a veritable gold mine of inspiration. I bought different kinds of curry, herbs de provence, cumin seeds, harissa and cardamom.

With my brain full of ideas, I leafed through cookbooks and bookmarked recipes online. This dish is inspired by what I bought at Market Spice and a recipe I stumbled across months ago. I love roasted cauliflower and anything that is sweet and spicy at the same time. Harissa, a North African chili pepper paste, is versatile, smoky, a tiny bit sweet and definitely spicy. You can find harissa at some grocery stores or you can order it on Amazon.

This dish, when served over fresh spinach makes a warm salad. For a meatless meal, serve with cous cous or quinoa or it goes well with a simple grilled protein like chicken or fish.

Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas and Harissa

  • 1 head cauliflower, separated into bite-sized florets
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 small sweet onion, like Maui or red onion; finely sliced
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons harissa
  • ½ bunch each Italian parsley and cilantro
  • ½ a lemon
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach (2 big handfuls)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the cauliflower on a large rimmed baking sheet. Add 3 tablespoons of oil, ½ teaspoon salt and cumin seeds. Roast 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and golden. Add the chickpeas and roast an additional 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat until the onions are very soft. Stir in the harissa along with 1 tablespoon water.

Combine the harissa onions and cauliflower, stirring well to combine. In a bowl or a large plate, layer the cauliflower mixture over the spinach. Rough chop the cilantro and Italian parsley; sprinkle over the salad. Squeeze the lemon over the salad and top with goat cheese.

Originally printed in The Yakima Magazine.


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