Spice-Roasted Vegetables With Chermoula

Back in the day, I would never have agreed to fix a totally vegetarian/vegan meal for dinner. In my mind, "vegetarian" and "vegan" were ways you ate when normal food failed you, or you were allergic to basically everything on this planet except vegetables. I've always loved vegetables as the side-kick, but for too long I gave them very little title notice. Vegetables were the Debbie Reynolds-as-a-Coconut-Grove-girl from Singing in the Rain: cute, but nothing to put alongside the Gene Kellys of the dinner table.
Then some years ago it occurred to me: maybe the reason I didn't view vegetables as the star of a meal was because I didn't meet them under the right circumstances - I wasn't willing to give them a lead part so I'd never seen exactly what they could do. My coterie of spices was small indeed. I didn't experiment outside my well-trodden paths of Western flavors. Cilantro, basil, oregano, garlic, rosemary. Thyme if I felt plucky. Dill on rare occasions. I had no concept of the magic of Middle-Eastern, Indian, and Asian flavors. I didn't know that cilantro didn't have to mean Mexican, and that cinnamon could be used to tell a completely different flavor-story than that we tell here, in America. I began to read cookbooks, not just for the sake of the recipes, but for the stories they told and the new world of flavors and foods they unveiled to me. It has been quite a few years now and my cookbook collection has far outgrown the shelf-space I have for them. I am inspired by these books - the photographs, the way they let the reader into the author's heart and history, the way they teach you by example all the kitchen-wisdom of the people who write them. Through these books (and memoirs, magazines, blogs, podcasts, and other forms of social media) my mind has been changed on the subject of vegetarian and vegan meals. I am not someone who subscribes to any one method of eating - I am an omnivore who seeks to eat good, nourishing food grown as honestly and close to home as possible. But within that I enjoy pulling one of my pretty cookbooks off the shelf and flipping through the aesthetically pleasing pages till something catches my eye. As often as not, it is a vegetarian recipe like "Spice-Roasted Vegetables With Chermoula" from My Darling Lemon Thyme by Emma Galloway. Her cookbook, among others, has taught me what it means to let a vegetable (or three) take the important lines. You'd be surprised how much drama they can bring to center stage. Here, chopped root vegetables and chick peas are tossed with olive oil and a harem of spices, then roasted till tender. While the vegetables roast, make the chermoula - a bright green, pesto-like sauce. Chopped cilantro, lemon juice, garlic, and the highest quality olive oil you can get your little hands on - this is where it gets delicious. Now you assemble the plates with love - toasted, malty barley topped with fork-tender vegetables and all the spice-laden drippings, a smattering of chermoula, and a generous handful of torn, fresh mint. I love when an aspect of a recipe breaks form. The mint does that here - all the familiar textures and flavors in each forkful, then an unexpected, heady rush of bright coolness to calm the subtle, spice-built heat. This is a meal that shows off the best aspects of the ingredients themselves: simple, cheap ingredients elevated almost magically by a little extra care.

Spice-Roasted Vegetables With Chermoula
(based off the recipe in Emma Galloway's book)
Serves 4-6

1 14-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed well
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro stems
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Finely grated zest of one lemon
2 large golden beets, chopped
2 carrots, chopped into rough sticks
2 small parsnips cut into quarters, lengthwise
mint leaves, to serve

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup barley
2 cups water
pinch of salt

1 cup cilantro leaves and stems, roughly chopped
1/4 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together spices, honey, and olive oil. Add vegetables and toss to coat, then spread in a single layer on a large, parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 45-50 minutes, stirring at least once.
  2. In the meantime to cook the barley, heat oil in a small saucepan. Add the barley and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until toasty smelling. Add two cups of water and a pinch of salt, cover the pan, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed and the barley is tender. Remove from the heat, keep the lid on, and let steam until vegetables are finished roasting.
  3. To make the chermoula, put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely chopped and a rough sauce has formed. Season to taste with sea salt.
  4. To assemble plates, pile roasted vegetables on a bed of barley, drizzle generously with chermoula, and finish with torn, fresh mint.


  1. This looks fantastic, I've always loved vegetables even as a kid.

    1. I bet you'd love these, then! Even though the spice list is expensive, work for the recipe is minimal!