When I plan a meal I usually think about the vegetable first, trying to come up with a way to prepare it that is interesting and delicious. When I start there, I find it easy enough to round out the meal with a simple protein — grilled chicken, pan-seared salmon, a scoop of beans — and some sort of carb — sweet potatoes, brown rice, farro, a loaf of whole wheat bread. But focusing my attention on the produce makes sure that I select it carefully, prepare it while it’s fresh, and give it the culinary attention it deserves. My kids, who are 2, 5 and 6, will usually eat a few bites of the vegetable, at least with a bit of coercion… and we definitely have gone through stages where they wouldn’t try it at all. (If this is you, don’t worry. It will happen. Just keep putting it on the table). And so, because I’m trying to develop my kids’ palates, I want the produce to shine.
In this recipe, I started with two fairly humble ingredients: a head of cabbage and a can of garbanzo beans. By planning ahead and deciding to roast them, I was able to completely transform their texture and flavor: the cabbage became sweet and tender, the chickpeas nutty and crunchy.
Each of these roasted gems could easily stand alone: roasted cabbage always surprises eaters with its depth of flavor; roasted chickpeas make an addicting afternoon snack. But when paired in this particular dish, the chickpeas provide a nice contrasting texture to the cabbage, and the garlicky tahini dressing ties it all together. And while this dish would work great alongside roasted pork or grilled sausages, this particular night we served it for dinner over brown rice and topped with a runny egg.
You can roast the cabbage and chickpeas simultaneously which keeps things simple. And the same principle applies here that applies to most cooking techniques where you want to create a nice golden effect: eliminate any extra moisture that could prevent browning. For the cabbage, this means to avoid overcrowding the pan. For the chickpeas, this means drying them completely using paper towels or a clean dish towel.
Because the cabbage and chickpeas both roast for a good amount of time at a high heat (400 degrees for 20-30 minutes), I avoid using spices or garlic prior to putting them in the oven, because they can have easily burn and become bitter. Instead, I stick to olive oil, salt, and pepper.
I added flavor after the roasting through a simple three-ingredient tahini dressing. I’d suggest doubling this dressing and using it later in the week over another batch of roasted vegetables, as a salad dressing, or with pasta.
Tahini is made from ground sesame seeds, and has the consistency of nut butter without its sweetness (it’s a key ingredient in hummus, creating its rich flavor). If you were to try it straight out of the jar I doubt you’d be impressed, but because it’s creamy and subtle, it provides an excellent base for other flavors, such as the lemon and garlic here. Tahini can be found in most supermarkets next to the nut butters. It separates in the jar, like most natural nut butters, so make sure to give it a good stir before using it. It is also helpful to warm it briefly before using in a recipe so that it combines more easily (this trick works for all sauces that call for nut butters).
Roasted Cabbage and Chickpeas with Garlic Tahini Dressing
Simple but substantial, this recipe takes humble ingredients and transforms them into a delicious side dish, or main course served over rice.
- 1 small or 1/2 of a large green cabbage
- 1 14.5 ounce can chickpeas drained, rinsed, and dried well
- 4 teaspoons divided olive oil
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 small lemon juiced
- salt and pepper
Grease rimmed baking sheet. Cut cabbage into half through the core, and then cut out the core from the bottom. Cut into wedges about ¾ inch thick and lay on baking sheet, avoiding overlap. Drizzle cabbage wedges with 2 tsp olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to spread the olive oil around on each wedge, trying to get most of it coated.
Grease second rimmed baking sheet. Place chickpeas on baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil, ¼ tsp salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Toss together to coat and then shake the pan to spread out the chickpeas.
Place baking sheets in oven on separate racks. Roast for 10 minutes, then give the pan with the chickpeas a good shake to help them brown evenly. Rotate locations for the two pans, and roast for a second 10 minutes.
Check chickpeas. They are done at about 20 minutes total, when they are crispy and golden. Continue to roast cabbage until it is tender and edges are browned, about 10 more minutes.
Plate the cabbage and top with chickpeas. Drizzle generously with tahini dressing.