This summer I went to Boston for a work conference, and as is always the case when I travel to the US, I made a point of taking a trip to Whole Foods. There were two reasons for this. The first was to stock my hotel mini fridge with some healthy eats for the couple of days I was going to be there, because we all know that conference food often isn’t the best. There’s also just something really comforting about starting the day off with a meal I know is going to set me up for a great day.
The second (and far more exciting) reason was to browse the aisles to discover new-to-me brands and products that we don’t have in Canada. Admittedly, Vancouver is a very health-conscious and progressive city, and we’re extremely blessed to have so much choice when it comes to high-quality food. At the same time though, I think it’s the sheer variety within each type of product in US grocery stores that we don’t have here.
Learning about these happens to be something I find fascinating. Not only do I love seeing ingredients used in innovative ways, but as a marketer, I can’t ignore how companies use branding to make their products stand out. As you can imagine, I was like a kid in a candy shop on the evening I decided to make this visit. Thank goodness for Uber because if I’d arrived via cab, the driver would have been waiting a very long time.
Among my finds were:
- all sorts of kimchee, sauerkraut and fermented veggies
- a million different kinds of kombucha and other fermented drinks
- coconut chips, onion chips, and other veggie chips of every flavour
- grain-free paleo-friendly veggie wraps
- more jerky than I’ve ever seen before in my life (turkey, beef, bison, pork, salmon, and vegan varieties too), as well as jerky bars
- frozen organic shiitake mushrooms (WHY do we not have these in the frozen veg section? GENIUS!)
Another thing I found which I’d been searching high and low for here was this:
That’s harissa, which is a North African version of hot sauce. Google will find you lots of recipes for harissa and I’m all for a good DIY, but sometimes it’s nice when you don’t have to make things from scratch, ya know? I’d been wanting to use it in recipes for ages but never managed to find it when I went to my usual grocery stores here at home. Ironically, the next time I went to Whole Foods upon my return, guess what I found in the international foods aisle? Harissa. And not just any harissa. This exact brand, Entube. But we’ll just forget about that for now. I’m still thrilled with the tube I brought back as my Boston souvenir, even though there’s absolutely nothing Bostonian about it.
So what’s in harissa? This particular one is made of paprika, cayenne, sea salt, olive oil, acerola berry, cumin, sumac, garlic, coriander and other spices. It’s sort of Northern Africa’s version of ketchup…. but better, because it packs some heat and SO much more flavour.
I’ve been using a ton of harissa since buying this one back in August, and one of my favourite recipes created with it so far are these Harissa Chickpea Power Bowls. The chickpeas are tossed in a saucy mix of olive oil and harissa, then roasted in the oven until golden-crisp. They’re the crunch nestled amongst warm spiced sweet potatoes, citrusy rice, veggies, pistachios, pepitas, fresh herbs and (for an unexpected sweet twist) finely chopped dates. Don’t be put off by the long-ish ingredients list – the moment you taste your first bite, I know you’ll agree it was 100% worth the wait!
Crispy Harissa Chickpea Power Bowls
Vibrant, colourful and full of flavour, these Moroccan-inspired Crispy Harissa Chickpea Power Bowls will leave you feeling satiated and energized to take on whatever the day brings your way.
For the chickpeas:
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp harissa paste
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
For the roasted sweet potatoes:
- 3 cups diced peeled sweet potatoes
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp each smoked paprika and ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
For the rest:
- 3/4 cup uncooked rice
- 1 1/2 cups water or low sodium vegetable stock
- 1 medium carrot, shredded or julienne cut
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1/4 cup finely chopped pitted dates
- 2 tbsp each shelled pistachios and pepitas
- 2 tbsp each finely chopped fresh parsley and mint
- 2 cups shredded baby spinach
For the citrus vinaigrette (you may have leftovers):
- 1/3 cup each extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- ½ tsp cumin
- a few generous pinches of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, coat the chickpeas in olive oil and harissa. Scatter them on the baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, shaking occasionally, or until crispy.
Meanwhile, toss the sweet potato in olive oil and spices. Scatter them on a 2nd lined baking sheet. Roast for ~30 mins, shaking occasionally, until lightly crisped on the edges.
Boil the rice in water/vegetable stock according to package directions.
Prepare remaining ingredients as indicated above. Toss everything except the spinach together in a large bowl.
Whisk together the dressing and use 1-2 tbsp to dress the shredded spinach. Divide it between 3-4 bowls.
Once cooked, drain excess liquid off the rice and stir it into the veggies, along with another 3 tbsp dressing. Divide this between the bowls.
Finally, arrange the roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas on top of the rice + spinach. Serve with extra dressing on the side to use as needed.
More power bowls to feast on
So tell me… what condiment is your “ketchup”? As in, what do you put on everything? Ketchup used to be my world when I was a kid, but salsa replaced that in my teens and is still now one of my fave saucy things in my 20s. A close second is hummus or any dip with tahini in it, and while apple cider vinegar might not really be considered a condiment, I do put it on a LOT of my meals.