With about 95 percent accuracy, I can usually judge whether I will like a recipe from the ingredients list.
This was not one of those recipes.
I have been working my way through my most-used cookbook, Salad for Dinner, for years. And for years, I had skipped over this recipe. The ingredients sounded weird together. Would green olives really work with a dressing that was inflected with turmeric and cinnamon? Did cauliflower and carrots really need a starchy bed of couscous? Speaking of: was that really enough couscous for a couscous salad? And what about the chickpeas–where did they fit into this equation?
Ultimately, however, my trust in this cookbook—every. single. other. recipe. I tried had checked out—and my desire to expand my grain salad repertoire won out. And guess what? I loved this.
The roasted cauliflower and carrots are roasted until they are crispy and sweet. The green olives add contrast. The couscous glues everything together, turning a collection of ingredients into a cohesive dish. And the dressing, full of lemon and spices, really brightens up these wintery ingredients–something welcome in a season of braises and stews. And it keeps and travels well, so you can have it warm at dinner on the first night and at room temperature for packed lunches during the week.
Moroccan-spiced roasted cauliflower and carrot salad with chickpeas and couscous (serves 6 generously)
Adapted only slightly for quantity from Jeanne Kelley’s Salad for Dinner
1 large or 2 small heads cauliflower (about 1.5 pound), trimmed to 1-inch florets
12 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup whole-wheat couscous
1 or 2 (14.5-ounce) can(s) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
5 green onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped pitted green olives
1/2 cup currants (I have also done a slightly smaller amount of raisins or dried cranberries)
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (see note, below)
2 teaspoons coriander seed (see note, below)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, pressed/minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Note: are whole seeds strictly necessary? No. But cumin is my favorite spice, and I find toasting and grinding my own makes a cumin that is so much more powerful than pre-ground, which makes me very happy. You do you!
Preheat the oven to 450F.
In a medium bowl, toss the cauliflower and carrots with enough olive oil to coat lightly. Spread the cauliflower mixture in a single layer onto a baking sheet. (Single layer is important as it allows everything to get crispy, rather than soggy. You will probably need two baking sheets.) Sprinkle with a bit of salt. Roast the vegetables in the oven until browned in places and tender, stirring once if you can be bothered, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place couscous in a bowl. Pour boiling water into the bowl—just enough to barely cover all of the couscous. Cover and let stand for five minutes. Remove cover and fluff with fork.
Transfer the couscous to a large bowl; mix in the cauliflower, carrots, garbanzo beans, green onions, chopped parsley, cilantro, olives, currants, and almonds.
If you are serving all of the salad right then, whisk in all of the dressing. If not, dress in portions as you go.
Stir the cumin and the coriander seeds (or powder, if that’s what you’re using) in a small, heavy dry saucepan over medium-high heat until toasted and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the turmeric and cinnamon. Let the spices cool slightly and transfer them to a mortar and pestle or small spice grinder and coarsely grind. (Skip the grinding if you’re not using whole seeds.)
In a small bowl, combine the spices with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt, and whisk to blend.