It’s pretty clear how I’m handling winter this year: lots of big, bold, spicy food. Chili, saffron, ginger, and paprika are on heavy rotation these days, and I’m surviving cold days with hot meals infused with far-away flavours.
The inspiration for this dish came from harira, a spicy Moroccan and Algerian soup that is traditionally eaten during Ramadan. I made it a lot when I first went vegetarian, about 16 years ago, but after adding several more recipes to my repertoire, kind of forgot about it. In the interest of internally thawing out my bod, I thought I would dust off this old favourite and give it a couple updates.
You’ll often see a lot of harira recipes calling for rice or pasta, but I wanted to go the grain-free route on this one, so I pulled out my trusty spiralizer and make noodles out of sweet potatoes! As much as I love “raw noodles” like spiralized zucchini and beet and carrot, let’s face it: beyond their appearance, they aren’t fooling anyone into believing they are pasta. But something really amazing happens when you cook vegetable noodles just a little bit – they actually become rather tender, yielding, and able to absorb other flavours. Sweet potato noodles are definitely a favourite of mine, especially in cooked dishes like this one. They add great texture, and of course, noodle-free oodles of nutrients (try saying that five times).
You don’t have to soak the lentils for this dish, but it will cook faster it you do, plus the lentils themselves will be far more digestible. And of course you can use canned chickpeas instead of cooking them from dried, but because you won’t be blending them up (into hummus, for instance) I promise it’s worth the effort for not-totally-mushy results. If you’ve never tried cooking your own chickpeas from scratch, maybe now is the time to take the plunge! You’ll never go back, I promise.
1 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
2 tsp. ground turmeric
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. hot smoked paprika
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 pinch saffron (about 40 threads) soaked in 2 Tbsp. hot water
3 medium onions
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
14 oz / 400ml canned whole tomatoes
6oz / 170g tomato paste (1 small can)
1 ½ cup dried chickpeas OR 3 cups / 500g cooked chickpeas (about 2 cans)
1 cup dried lentils, soaked overnight if possible
1 medium sweet potato
3 slices lemon
5 cups water
½ cup / 20g cilantro, leaves and tender stems only, plus more for garnish
½ cup / 20g flat-leaf parsley, leaves and tender stems only, plus more for garnish
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
cold-pressed olive oil and lemon wedges for serving
1. If using dried chickpeas, soak them in pure water overnight with an acidic medium, such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. The next morning, drain and rinse. Place in a large stockpot, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. About 30 minutes into cooking, add about a tablespoon of salt. Drain and rinse.
2. Place saffron threads in a small cup with about 2 tablespoons of recently-boiled water. Let steep for 10-15 minutes.
3. Peel and dice onions. Heat coconut oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the turmeric, ginger, caraway, paprika, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to blend, and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Lower the heat to medium, add onions and salt, stir to coat. Cook until translucent and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes (add a little water to the pot if it becomes dry). Add the steeped saffron liquid, the canned tomatoes (break up any large pieces), tomato paste, chickpeas, lentils, lemon slices and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook covered until the lentils are tender, 15-25 minutes depending on whether or not you soaked them.
4. While the soup is cooking, make the sweet potato noodles. Scrub the sweet potato well under running water if it is organic, and peel it if it is not. Spiralize the potato if you have a spiralizer, or use a julienne peeler to create long, thin noodle-like strips. Wash the herbs well, spin dry and roughly chop, removing any tough stems.
5. Add the sweet potato noodles and herbs to the pot, stir to incorporate and let simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste.
6. Ladle out desired amount of hot soup into bowls. Drizzle each serving generously with olive oil and top with more herbs. Serve with a wedge of lemon, and enjoy.
In other news, I’ve added two new recipes to the My New Roots App! If you’re craving a little more in the way of raw, juicy sunshine, here are two brand-new and exclusive smoothie bowls for your pleasure: the Zippy Zucchini Smoothie Bowl and the Plum Dandy Smoothie Bowl. If you have the app already simply update it, and if you don’t, you can download it here.
And this week I’m in Sri Lanka, all thanks to Cinnamon Hotels for kidnapping me from the icy cold and transporting to me to a tropical paradise full of exotic fruits, cerulean 29° ocean water, and annoyingly perfect palm-tree-sunset-white-sand-beach situations. If you don’t want to be jealous, you should probably avoid my Instagram, okay?
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 amazinglocals, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Harissa Paste Makes about 1 ¼ cup / 300ml
25g dried chilies of your choice (choose a few types and include one smoked and one spicy variety, if possible)
2 red bell peppers
6oz / 170g can tomato paste (1 small can)
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. caraway seeds
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
a couple pinches sea salt
cold-pressed olive oil, to cover
1. Soak the dried chilies in just-boiled water for about 30 minutes until softened. Remove stems and seeds (wear gloves if you’re handling really spicy ones). Save soaking liquid.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C. Rub the bell peppers with a little coconut oil and place on a line baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes until blistered and turning black in spots. Remove from oven and place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool for 15 minutes (this process will help steam the peppers making them really easy to peel). Once cool enough to handle, simply slip the skins off of the peppers, remove the stem and seeds, and the discard them. Put flesh aside.
3. While the peppers are roasting, toast the spices in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder and grind until powder-y.
4. Peel garlic and place in the food processor. Pulse to mince. Add the soaked dried chilies, roasted red peppers, ground spices, tomato paste, lemon juice, and salt. Blend on high until relatively smooth (add some of the chilli soaking liquid to thin, if desired). Season with salt to taste and add more lemon juice if desired.
5. Transfer harissa to a clean glass jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil – this will help prevent it from spoiling. Cover with a tightly-sealed lid and store in the fridge for up to one month.
Roasted Carrot and Fennel with Harissa, Black Lentils and Yogurt Serves 4
1 pound / 500g carrots
1 pound / 500g fennel (about 2 medium bulbs)
2 medium red onions
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
a couple pinches salt and pepper
1 cup / 250ml Greek-style yogurt (preferably goat or sheep)
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of sea salt
1 cup / 225g black lentils (Du Puy or French lentils would also work), soaked if possible
½ tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
a handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
flaky sea salt, to garnish
¼ cup cold-pressed olive oil
1-4 tsp. harissa paste, to your taste (I used 3 tsp.)
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ Tbsp. maple syrup
pinch sea salt, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C. Scrub carrots well and slice them in half lengthwise (if they are relatively large, slice them in quarters lengthwise). Wash fennel and slice lengthwise into thin sections. Peel and slice red onion into eights. Place carrots on a baking sheet and rub with a little coconut oil. Place fennel and red onion on a separate baking sheet and rub with a little coconut oil. Place in the oven to roast for 25-35 minutes until tender and charred around the edges (the fennel and onions may take longer than the carrots, so remove carrots first if necessary). Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper.
2. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the lentils. Wash lentils well, drain and rinse until water runs clear. Place in medium saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook covered for about 15 minutes. Add about a half teaspoon of salt, stir and continue to simmer covered, until the lentils are tender, about 5 more minutes. Drain and rinse. Stir in olive oil and season to taste.
3. While the lentils are cooking, whisk the dressing ingredients together. Start with a teaspoon of harissa paste and add more to suit your taste. The dressing should be spicy, but palatable. Add the roasted vegetables and fold to coat well.
4. Combine the lemon zest and yogurt.
5. To assemble, divide the yogurt and lentils among four plates. Pile the vegetables on top, sprinkle with flaky salt, mint, and drizzle any remaining dressing over the top. Enjoy.
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.
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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.
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.
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
Falafels. These definitely sit at the top of my list for most attempts at a healthy makeover and at the bottom of the list of success. How to get them crisp without deep frying? How to get them to hold together without eggs? What is the right balance of herbs and spices? Why are they so darn delicious at a restaurant and so darn underwhelming at home?!
First, it involves NOT cooking your chickpeas. Nope. Not even for a second. Of course I know that this is the traditional way to do it,but I was skeptical for some reason. Skeptical that I wouldn’t turn into a giant, human gas factory. Any of you have had the misfortune of eating poorly cooked legumes will understand what I’m talking about. It’s pretty uncomfortable. And not just for you. BUT! Miracle of miracles, this did not happen, and on top of a happy tummy, my falafels came out crisp, deliciously spiced, and they didn’t fall apart at all.
The chickpeas must start out raw and they must be soaked for 24 hours. Make sure to add an acidic medium to the water ( I use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar), give them a good rinse after draining, and you should be okay. I used chickpea flour as a binder, instead of all-purpose flour (duh) and this worked great to hold it all those tasty ingredients together. If you can’t find chickpea flour, try another gluten-free flour, which I’m pretty certain will work just as well. Fresh herbs are also a must for flavour – I chose both flat-leaf parsley and cilantro – so that the “dough” will look rather verdant once blended up.
The second trick is contact with high heat. Deep frying gives us the most crisp and delicious falafels, but it also gives us a whole host of un-want-ables, like oxidized fats and free radicals. Boo. You can cook falafels in the oven, but the dough is never going to get super crisp because the heat is surrounding the falafel instead of connecting directly with it. Again, boo. Enter: the waffle iron. A waffle iron uses high heat that can come into direct contact with the dough, and with minimal fat. Plus it’s fun to say. Falafel Waffle. Obviously, this was meant to be.
Chickpea Party Tricks We all know that chickpeas are fiber all-stars, providing 50% of your RDI in just one cup, (whoa!) but they have another party trick up their sleeve that I bet you didn’t know about. Two-thirds of the fiber in chickpeas is insoluble, meaning that it doesn’t break down during digestion, but instead moves through our digestive tract unchanged until it hits the large intestine. The fun starts here, where friendly bacteria (think probiotics!) go to town on said insoluble fiber and actually break it down to create short-chain fatty acids, including acetic acid, propionic acid, and butyric acid. These short-chain fatty acids can then be absorbed by the cells that line the wall of our large intestine and used for energy! How rad is that?! Butyric acid is in fact the preferred source of energy for the cells lining our colon, and with this bonus fuel comes greater potential for optimally active and healthy cells. This translates into a reduced risk of colon problems including colon cancer. So friends, invite chickpeas to your next dinner party – they’ll feed you and your colon cells. Can your pot roast do that?
I cooked several (ahem) of these waffles over the course of my day, you know, for research purposes. The ones I made first were the lightest and the crispiest. I still liked the ones that I cooked later on, but I found their consistency was a little dense and chewy, so I recommend using up the dough right away instead of making it ahead of time.
I made a couple little extras to accompany the Falafel Waffles, but these are merely (really delicious) suggestions. The Bright Cabbage Slaw take about 2 minutes to whip up, and lends a welcome, acidic top note to the dish as a whole. Try the Harissa Tahini Sauce as well – it’s savoury, creamy, and a little bit spicy. I was inspired by the one Jessie made over at Faring Well – thanks for the spark! Serve the falafels with whatever else you have on hand; avocado is really tasty, sprouts, fresh chilies, pickles, roasted veggies etc. You can also toss a falafel waffle into a pita or wrap if you want to take it to go, or serve them on top of a bed of whole grains for an even more substantial meal.
Falafel Waffles Makes 10-12 waffles
Ingredients: 2 cups / 400g dried chickpeas
2 cloves garlic 1⁄2 cup chopped + packed / 45g flat-leaf parsley 1⁄2 cup chopped + packed / 35g cilantro
11⁄2 Tbsp. ground cumin
11⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground coriander
11⁄2 tsp. fine grain sea salt (to taste, depends on if using canned)
1 tsp. cracked black Pepper
zest of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup / 115g chickpea flour
1/4 cup / 60ml water, as needed
1 tsp. coconut oil for greasing the waffle iron
1 batch Harissa Tahini Sauce (recipe to follow)
1 batch Bright Cabbage Slaw (recipe to follow)
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, lightly toasted
finely sliced red onion sprouts
roasted vegetables (pumpkin and cauliflower are yummy)
crushed chili flakes
1. Cover chickpeas with plenty of water and 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Let soak for 24 hours. Drain and rinse very well. Set aside.
2. In a food processor mince garlic. Add the chickpeas, chopped herbs, spices, lemon zest and juice. Pulse until the chickpeas are very finely minced, but not paste-y. Transfer contents to a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the chickpea flour and mix well, then add the water a few spoonfuls at a time until the mixture holds together well when pressed.
4. Make the Bright Cabbage Slaw and Harissa Tahini Sauce, if using.
5. Heat your waffle iron to medium-high. Brush with a little coconut oil. Divide the falafel dough into 10-12 equal portions, Gently pack each portion together so that it holds well, especially around the edges. Flatten out the portion you are using and press into the hot waffle iron, lower the lid and cook anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending on your equipment. The falafel is done when it is golden brown and crisp. Remove from waffle iron and place in a warm oven until ready to serve.
6. Serve hot falafel waffles with the Bright Cabbage Slaw, Harissa Tahini Sauce, red onion, avocado, sprouts, chili flakes and anything else you fancy! Enjoy.
Bright Cabbage Slaw 4 cups / 300g finely shredded red cabbage
3/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt
11⁄2 Tbsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. maple syrup or honey, to taste
a handful of chopped parsley, cilantro, or both
Combine the cabbage, salt, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Massage the salt and lemon into the cabbage for about a minute until it begins to wilt. Drizzle with maple syrup if desired, season to taste and fold in the herbs.
Harissa Tahini Sauce Makes about 1 cup / 250ml
Ingredients: 1/3 cup / 80ml tahini
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. Harissa paste (available at Middle Eastern grocers)
pinch of salt, to taste
1 tsp. maple syrup or honey
approx.1⁄2 cup / 125ml water, as needed
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy, adding water to thin as desired. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to one week.
Show me your falafels on Instagram! #MNRfalafelwaffles