Harissa Carrots and Fennel with Lentils

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My trip to Seattle to work on the Cody nutrition video series proved to be a pretty ragin’ food fest. The pre- and post-production days, along with nights off gave me some time to explore the city, meet the amazing locals, and sample, er, quite a bit of fantastic food. You know, for research purposes.

When I travel, I put wish-list restaurants in two groups: the vegetarian restaurant, and the non-vegetarian restaurant that has enough veg-friendly options to be worth the visit. As much as I find a lot of inspiration at both of these types of establishments, they can also have their drawbacks. First, the vegetarian restaurant, bless them, can tend towards the dated, you know what I mean? Overly-sauced, overly-cheesed, overly seitan-ed out places that offer satisfying, but not very health conscious dishes reminiscent of 1997. Yea. The second place is great if you want to eat out with meat-loving friends (and thank goodness most American restaurants recognize that vegetarians don’t always travel in packs!). The issue is that these places don’t recognize that we also need substance. There are plenty of creative veggie-centric plates, but nothing that is going to really fill me up! When I was in Seattle, I rarely saw a single bean, lentil or a cube of tempeh on a menu. If I was lucky enough to see a whole grain, it was a sprinkle on top like a garnish. I feel like I’m always compromising somehow, which sounds ridiculously gripe-y, but maybe this is my PSA to say that both types of restaurants are so close to getting it so right that it is worth putting it out there in hopes that someone hears my cry.

One of my most favourite dishes at a hip and trendy non-vegetarian spot was a roasted carrot, fennel, harissa and yogurt combination, that was as strong in its presentation as it was in flavour. The plate was literally piled with roasted carrots and fennel – a stellar sight for ravenous eyes – bathed in the silkiest scarlet sauce, all nestled in a generous swathe of thick yogurt. It was kind of thing I could barely wait to dig into (I had to share with the rest of my table…rough!), and sad to see the server remove the licked-clean plate. BUT! Where was the rest of it? I realize that this was intended to be a side dish, but there were literally no other options on the menu unless I was to join my table mates and dig into a roast chicken.

Being back home in Copenhagen in the thick of winter, I felt the urge to bring a little light and spice to the table. Fondly recalling the jolt to my taste buds that carrot dish conferred, I decided to make my own version that included a simple upgrade with lentils that any vegetarian would be happy to call dinner. Or anyone for that matter.

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Harissa is a north African chili pepper paste traditionally added to meat and fish stews, and to spice up couscous, but I think it’s delish with all the things, especially winter veg that could use a major flavour injection. If you have not made your own harissa before, it’s a relatively quick and painless process that can give your food a serious wake-up. It is bright, bold, spicy, smoky and just plain yummmm. It keeps well in the fridge and a delightful thing to have on hand when you’re not really sure what to do with that pumpkin (slather it in harissa and roast it!) or that tempeh (marinate it in harissa and fry it!) or that kale (dress it in harissa and stuff your face!). If you can’t wait another second to make this dish, you can also buy pre-made harissa paste at ethnic grocers and gourmet markets. It’s sold in small tins, tubes, or jars – just look for versions without any preservatives or unpronounce-ables (but it goes without saying that the homemade kind is best, obvi).

You can really use any kind of chili to make harissa, and I suggest a variety to achieve a deep and complex flavour. Some of the ones I chose (based solely on the fact that I already had them in my pantry) were smoked whole ñoras peppers, guajillo, and bird’s eye for some serious heat. Chipotle would be very tasty (it’s a good idea to have at least one smoked pepper variety), or de arbol, jalepeno, ancho…you get the idea. You can also make harissa with crushed chili flakes if that is all you have, just make sure that you balance it out with perhaps more tomato paste and roasted bell peppers. I believe that you should be able to eat a small spoonful of pure harissa without blowing your head off. You’re after something spicy, but also rich and savoury, so strike that balance as you’re choosing the ingredients.

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It’s Getting Hot in Here
Chili peppers are a fantastic food to add to your diet, especially in the colder months, as they actually heat us from the inside out! Chilies contain an active substance called capsaicin that significantly increase thermogenesis (a.k.a. heat production), in our bodies. This is precisely why eating spicy food makes us turn read. break a sweat, and can even aid weight loss, as thermogenesis literally burns calories! These burned calories translate into warmth in the cells and therefore heat in the body. This is the exact same process that takes place in hibernating animals to stay warm.

Other foods that have this thermogenic effect are horseradish, mustard, cinnamon, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, ginseng, and turmeric.

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I love this kind of dish from a construction standpoint. The first bites deliver the big bold flavours of the roasted veg dripping in smoky sauce alone, and then as you begin to go further and dig around, everything kind of melds together, creating mouthfuls with a little bit of this, a little bit of that. The lentils start hanging out with the lemon-spiked yogurt giving the smooth consistency some tooth and texture, which the veggies then become coated in. The harissa drippings work their way into all the nooks and crannies, and the mint pokes you every so often with a “hello, my name is FRESH!” It hits all the texture notes, the flavour notes, and you’re left feeling, well, really satisfied. Not to mention, full.

This dish is totally vegan aside from the yogurt, which could even be replaced with a cashew yogurt, like the one in my cookbook, or another plant-based one. You can even leave it out all together if you like, but it’s a great team player with the other elements. The lentils could easily be replaced by the beans of your choice, and the veg you can change up according to what you have available. You can even make the harissa dressing for any manner of green salad and serve it over raw things too. This dish would also be really tasty with some toasted nuts or seeds sprinkled on top.

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Note: If you are in Copenhagen and looking for high-quality organic spices for this recipe or any others, check out ASA spice shop in Torvehallerne! They are simply. the. best.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Oh yea, Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone’s 2016 has started off on the right foot.

Here are a couple things I’ve been up to:
Cody app and I have collaborated to create an online video series with 21 episodes geared towards anyone who wants to learn how to cook healthy, plant-based meals! I have been wanting to put together an educational + cooking video program for so long now, and I am very proud of how this has turned out. I hope you check it out.

Cody - Healthy, Whole, Fit

We’ve added four brand-new and exclusive recipes to the My New Roots app. These recipes are specifically for cleansing and detoxification, so if you’re January hasn’t been as “clean” as you would have liked, maybe this will give you some inspiration! Update your app or download it now and get this recipe for Nori wraps with Cleansing Broccoli Pesto along with three other delicious and detoxifying delights (use the filter button to select “Super Clean 2016”) Check out the recipes here.

My New Roots iPhone app

And I was invited to speak on Jessica Murnane’s podcast, The Things that Freaked my Week. It was fun. Listen here.

BIG love and best wishes for your year ahead.
xo, Sarah B

Show me your harissa on Instagram: #MNRharissa

58 comments

  1. Kathy

    I cant wait to try this later the recipe looks so beautiful. Great pictures in your blog it inspires reader to create the dish.I Agree with you about vegetarian restaurant.

  2. Parsons

    It looks spicy. I think it is not easy to make this recipe. It includes many variety ingredients and the cooking techniques are not simply. But I am sure that the taste will be awesome.

  3. Lisa Plume

    This post found me while down and out with the flu. I downloaded your Cody App and loved it! So many tweaks on what I do to prepare plant based foods. And I am loving massaged salads – so much I created a Face Book contest and had 8 submitted salads, all so wonderful. Keep doing what you do 🙂

  4. Hallie

    Hi Sarah! I love this recipe, and I was wondering if you could tell me what type of sprouter you use? I know I have seen you post pictures of ceramic one but couldn’t find a post where you mentioned the brand! Thank you!

  5. Katie

    I just made this and it was truly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten (and I am in no way taking the credit for that!). Such a fantastic recipe, the lemony yoghurt just completes it.

  6. keely harris

    FLAVOR. EXPLOSION. this is absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever made. thank you for your beautiful website and your lovely, wholesome recipes that never cease to impress. xoxo

  7. Jennifer Hammer

    I saw the title and thought OOH! I’ve been wishing I knew how to make that dish from The Whale Wins. And then read that you’d been here in Seattle:-)
    So excited to make this at home, and with lentils too! Thank you!

  8. Anneke

    You are a genius Sarah! This was SO GOOOOOOD! Even my father who claims he doesn’t like lentils or veggies really, he loved it (ha!) – btw your new banner is gorgeous, makes me want to run to the store to get my hands on some radishes of my own :). Thanks a million once again for showing us all how yummy veggies are (and convincing my dad)! XOXO

  9. aldina

    I made this the other day and it was so so good! i made a couple adjustments to the Harissa sauce since i didnt have some ingredients and it was still delicious! And this was my first time cooking and eating fennel!

  10. Mary

    I cant wait to try this later the recipe looks so beautiful. Great pictures in your blog it inspires reader to create the dish.I Agree with you about vegetarian restaurant.

  11. me

    Wow…made this yesterday and it was Wonderful!! Tasty and satisfying…the flavors work so well together!! looking forward to leftovers today for lunch…

  12. Beatrice Barbareschi

    My husband keeps talking about this dish 2 days after we had it for dinner – it was deliscious! Thank you for another fabulous contribution, we looooove you and your recipes!
    With much gratitude, from Oxford, UK.

  13. JvBH

    The fennel and harissa recipe was fantastic! I plated it with a quick cashew cream sauce instead of the yogurt (cashew butter, lemon juice, water, herbamare, honey) and it worked really well. Your recipes are always so good!

  14. Emma

    Do you have any suggestions for harissa paste without the garlic? I am violently, violently allergic to garlic and get respiratory problems if I eat even the smallest sliver, but would love to try this recipe. Do you think the paste would hold without the garlic, or should I replace it with some kind of tight little onion?

  15. ALicia

    Your salad looks awesome and I so agree with you about the vegetarian restaurants. I have just discovered your blog and am looking forward to checking out some more of your posts.

  16. Laia Kverneland

    Where do you find nyoras pepper in Copenhagen? I’ve been looking for them like crazy. Awesome recipe too!

  17. Amy

    Hi Sarah,

    I have been looking through your website to see if you had a great recommendation for an at home water filter? What do you use? Also do you have a nice chemical free shampoo recommendation? Thank you in advance!

  18. Agnes {Cashew Kitchen}

    Hi Sarah!

    I recognize you frustration with vegetarian options at restaurants SO well! I often have my most interesting food experiences at non-vegetarian “hipster” restaurants, but as you say the dishes are often intended as sides, and it’s difficult to pick and chose foods that make up a coherent menu or makes you full enough. But just last night actually I had such an awesome vegetarian food experience in a reataurant here in Stockholm that I definitely think you should look up if you would come here sometime! It’s called Gro, and they have one vegivore 4 course menu and one omnivore 4 course menu that they change up every once in a while. The vegivore menu was this time filled with things like charred Jerusalem artichoke, sunflower seeds and hollandaise, dehydrated and rehydrated potatoes with soft and buttery leek and eggs with crispy onion sprinkle, barleyotto with sheep’s cheese & perfectly cooked beets in different textures and a homemade yoghurt ice cream with marinated parsnip and strawberries. Ugh! So good! <3 and wine pairing with that, if one would like.

    With that said, I'm gonna make me some harissa paste and roasted vegs after this recipe asap!

    Hope you had a lovely weekend!
    xx
    Agnes

  19. Jacqui

    This is my feeling about restaurants too! I rarely eat out, so when I do I really want it to be an experience, but sometimes feel the lack of substance in veggie dishes (although delicious) end up making me still hungry once back home. Anyways, I was planning on making your butternut lasagna for dinner tonight, but it’s going to rival with this dish now! Guess it will depend on how much time I have 😉

  20. dominika

    Hi Sarah, thank you for those next recipes. It’s just not easy to find them in your app. For NORI WRAP i have to get down and down and down to find it. It will be useful to put them ay the beginning or add in menu – NEW.
    Thank you !

  21. Allyson

    I definitely agree with you in the vegetarian restaurants vs non-vegetarian restaurants divide. If I ever open my own restaurant I would want it to be one that would be vegetable focused and healthy, but without sacrificing taste, satisfaction, or style. Unfortunately there’s nothing quite like that where I am. This sounds like the exact sort of veg dish I would love to order when eating out, and rarely get to.

  22. Frugal Vegan Traveler

    I completely agree with you about the vegetarian restaurant options out there. There are some amazing vegan/vegetarian restaurants on the west coast of the US, but other than that, I haven’t found anything spectacular. But with recipes like this, who needs to go out?! 🙂

  23. Ginny

    Gorgeous. I agree 100% about both vegetarian restaurants and veg entrees. I often feel the same way about salads. Chef’s could really grow their businesses by putting more thought into well-composed salads, rather than haphazardly throwing stuff together, with greens that too often are beyond freshness, like they don’t matter. They DO. Good salads are probably #1 on my list of criteria for where I want to eat. Congrats on Cody, and good luck! It looks amazing.

  24. Anja Burgar

    Wow, such an inspirational recipe, I have to try it! I’m a huge fan of fennel, so you got me there already 🙂 And about the vegetarian dishes in restaurants. We have the same problem in Slovenia. Owners of the non-vegetarian restaurants seem to think that all vegetarians ever eat is fried cheese, fried veggies or frozen veggie steaks, that are just terrible. Not all of them, but I can say most of them. I’m not a vegetarian, but I’d still love to have a nice veggie dish when I go out.

  25. Sarah G

    This looks amazing! I am making this for supper tomorrow night 🙂

    I have an android so I don’t believe I can access the new app recipes. Is there a way you can share them? I really, really want to try that smoothie and tea recipe! Pretty please? lol

  26. Annie

    I completely agree about your take on vegetarian vs. non vegetarian restaurants! The vegetarian restaurants are usually pretty boring and not creative, while the non-vegetarian places with exciting vegetable centric dishes only want to offer protein in the form of cheese. I wish there were more places that did tasty, high-end, bean/legume centric dishes! More places seem to be offering things like “ancient grains” salads with stuff like quinoa and faro, but fancy beans, not so much 🙁

    Love this carrot-fennel-harissa-lentils take. Will have to give it a try 🙂

  27. Libby

    Harrissa has always seemed, to me, to be this unapproachable condiment that I’ll never try but this sounds easy and delicious! I’m excited to try it. I think it would be right delicious added to roasted sweet potatoes as well.

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