Move over, iceberg lettuce: Flavorful salads find inspiration in north Africa

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

The photography show “Harissa, Honey and Hyssop: Photos of North African Food,” at the JCC of San Francisco through Jan. 30, inspired this week’s recipes. The exhibit is filled with the work of Nelli Sheffer, an Israeli who specializes in food photography.

The show appealed to me not just because of the vivid portrayals of food, with grilled corn, roast lamb and other dishes, but also because of the life and feeling that emanates from the people in the photos.

I’ve re-created some of the North African flavors of the exhibition in several cooked vegetable salads, a feature of many cuisines in the region.

Briefly cooking the kale in the Kale Salad and Garlic Salad with Lemon helps tame its assertiveness. The cauliflower salad uses the Tunisian condiment harissa in the dressing.

The white bean dish features radishes and carrots, frequent ingredients in Moroccan salads.


Kale Salad with Garlic

Serves 4-6

1 large or 2 small bunches Tuscan kale (also known as dino or black kale)

1-2 tsp. minced garlic

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

2 tsp. packed, minced lemon zest

1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1⁄8 tsp. cumin

1⁄8 tsp. sugar

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1⁄4 tsp. ground black pepper

1⁄8 tsp. paprika

1 tomato, chopped into 1⁄4-inch pieces

Remove tough bottom stems from kale. You should have about 12 oz. of leaves. Immerse in boiling water. Return to boil. Cover and cook kale for 2 minutes. Kale should be pliable and somewhat tender. Immediately remove from pot, rinse with cold water and drain well. Pat leaves dry with paper towels.

Stack 6 to 8 leaves. Roll from tip of leaf to stem. Gently squeeze bundle to remove any excess water. Slice into 1/4-inch strips. Repeat with remainder of kale. Place in large bowl, tossing to untangle kale strips. Dry again with paper towels if there is a lot of moisture.

Combine garlic, juice, zest, oil, cumin, sugar, salt, pepper and paprika. Mix well and toss with kale strips. Garnish with chopped tomato. Serve at room temperature.


Cauliflower Salad with Harissa

Serves 4-6

1⁄2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tsp. harissa (Tunisian chili-garlic paste)

1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1⁄4 tsp. salt, as needed

1 medium cauliflower

1⁄2 cup red onion, cut into 1⁄4-inch chunks

3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint

3 tsp. packed, minced lemon zest

Mix juice, harissa, oil and salt. Set aside. Core cauliflower and cut into 1 1/2-inch florets. Steam over boiling water for 4 to 6 minutes until tender but not cooked through. Immediately toss with harissa mixture and red onion. Mix in mint and lemon zest. Taste and add additional salt if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.


White Bean Salad with Radishes and Carrots

Serves 4-6

15-oz. can (13⁄4 cups) cooked white kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup red bell pepper, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes

1⁄4 cup thinly sliced green onions (white and light green part only)

1⁄4 cup red radish, cut into 1⁄8-inch pieces

1 cup carrot, cut into 1⁄4-inch chunks

1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice

1⁄8 tsp. salt, as needed

1⁄4 tsp. paprika

1⁄4 tsp. cumin

1⁄2 tsp. minced garlic

1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbs. finely chopped parsley

Combine beans, red bell, green onions, radish and carrot. Mix together lemon juice, salt, paprika, cumin, garlic and olive oil. Combine with beans and vegetables. Stir in parsley. Taste, adding more salt if needed. Serve at room temperature.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs about her food at Contact her at [email protected].

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].