Monday, January 4, 2016

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas With Za'atar-Tahini Drizzle & Toasted Sesame Seeds

Little girl kneeling by The Blessed Virgin Mary 

Christmas isn't a day, it's a sacred season. We spend it in pure peace. Instead of hustling around everywhere, our focus is on a few essential activities. While festive Christmas parties are in full swing and malls are crowded with frazzled shoppers, we walk on clear beaches. We enjoy heartwarming concerts where Polish children sing lullabies to the baby Jesus. There are many cozy dinners in our PJs with sea salt chocolate for dessert. There's tea and ginger cookies. We pray more and count our blessings more. We watch old movies, Christmas flicks and read good books. We put presents under the annual parish Giving Tree. We exchange thoughtful gifts and eat peppermint sticks. We sit in candlelit churches. It's a time of calm celebration, cherished spirituality and tranquil motion. 

America's Oldest Candy Company.
Fifteen years ago, I lost my father. I was thirty one. A few years later, my mom passed away before Christmas. My parents loved having Christmas parties with holiday punch and beautiful food. The way my husband and I celebrate now is a deep departure from our time with them. But that's okay. We've learned to rest in sweet solitude. God is there. We're thankful. We also pray for those who are homeless, fleeing war or suffering from loneliness.

I finished The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton, which is a classic and a wonderful book. I started reading The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser, a unique spiritual gem! Heidi Swanson's inspiring new cookbook, Near And Far, is a labor of love. I'm usually reading more than one book at once, including some mysteries. Are you like that too?

We live in a very small space, which means we're forced to make do with less and strive for simplicity all year round. We believe in the Tiny House Movement, except we live in a tiny condo. During Christmastime, simple living takes top priority. We slow down and enjoy the quiet. Our plain-path leads to freedom and fulfillment. We put down our phones, walk our beagle on the beaches and cook a balance of decadent and light recipes. Tasty vegetables and fresh seafood are always on our menu. Tom lights a few candles around our home at suppertime, even if we're having something basic. Their soft light is welcome on winter nights. We decorate our little tree with vintage ornaments.

Let's get to the recipe...

Here, cauliflower and chickpeas are roasted with (or without) a red bell pepper and then drizzled with creamy tahini sauce. The tahini sauce is accented with za'atar and kissed with honey. Toss the cauliflower and sauce into couscous or serve it with rice for a satisfying and vibrant vegan/vegetarian meal. This is a macrobiotic-leaning recipe with a Middle Eastern twist.

It's also delicious stuffed into pita with a generous amount of tahini sauce and some crisp lettuce and/or Lebanese pink pickled turnips. I warn you, the turnips are addictive. Pink pickled turnips, za'atar and tahini are sold at Middle Eastern markets. Tahini can be found in many supermarkets now. Za'atar is sold at spice shops and online. This is a nurturing and detoxifying recipe with lots of Eastern Mediterranean flavor. It makes a nice sidekick for chicken or fish. My Rice Pilaf With Toasted Orzo  or my Herbed Couscous Pilaf is great with it too. 

Roasted Cauliflower And Chickpeas With Za'atar-Tahini Drizzle Recipe

Serves 2 with pita, rice or couscous

Some Notes & Tips:

Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mixture with a tart and nutty taste. Most blends contain dried thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. It's delicious on everything from potatoes to eggs to avocado toast to flatbread. You can find it at Middle Eastern markets or online. I look for blends without red pepper/hot pepper because I like to control the heat in my recipes. Penzeys Spices makes a good oneI also like this fair trade, handmade blend sold on Amazon. Sometimes I stir in more sumac  to this blend to punch up the pungency. Sumac is a common condiment used throughout the Middle East on everything from rice to kebabs. It has a mild, lemony taste. 

If you love garlic, stir a wee bit of pressed or grated garlic into the tahini sauce. Just make sure the person you're with is also a garlic fan. The tahini sauce is great on fish, sauteed chicken, tossed into salad, drizzled over vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes and kebabs too. 

You can also bump up the protein in the recipe by serving it with crumbled feta, scrambled, fried or hard boiled eggs. 

Toss some olives into this recipe if you love them.  

The chickpeas can be swapped with white beans if that's what you prefer. 

Ingredients For the Roasted Cauliflower & Chickpeas 

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Salt to taste. I use sea salt. 
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds (optional)

Ingredients For The Za'atar-Tahini Drizzle Sauce

  • 2/3 cup of well stirred tahini
  • 1 teaspoon of honey or vegan substitute
  • 1 teaspoon of za'atar
  • Salt to taste. I use sea salt.   


Preheat the oven to 425. Line a large baking pan with foil. Toss all the ingredients for the roasted cauliflower and chickpeas together, except for the sesame seeds. I mix the ingredients directly on the baking pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and have golden brown spots.

Toast some sesame seeds (if using) in a dry skillet until golden brown. Set aside.

Make the za'atar-tahini drizzle sauce by combining and stirring all the ingredients together. If the tahini seems too thick, stir in some water to thin it out a bit.

Serve the roasted cauliflower and chickpeas with the za'atar-tahini drizzle sauce. Sprinkle on the toasted sesame seeds. Harissa or sriracha are welcome here too.    

Bon Appetit & Blessings!
xx ~ Jilly    

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