Named after the North of the Panhandle neighborhood in which it resides, Nopa gave rise to a modern dining boom.
When the restaurant opened in a renovated bank space in 2006, Divisadero was not a destination for trendy dining it is today, but high-profile food businesses — 4505 Meats, the Mill, Bi-Rite Market and national media darling Che Fico, to name a few — have come to dominate the area.
Amid it all, Nopa has remained a quintessential San Francisco restaurant that continues to attract both locals and tourists. Reservations are still tough to nab, thanks to a combination of a bustling yet welcoming atmosphere, a legion of regulars and reliable food.
Chef-partner Laurence Jossel’s ultra-seasonal menu changes daily, but there are a few signatures that have come to define the restaurant. Carnivores fawn over the grilled pork chop and hamburger, the latter which some consider among the best in the city.
But for those who want to go easy on meat — or avoid it entirely — there is Nopa’s Moroccan vegetable tagine, a longtime vegetarian menu staple.
Essentially a vegetable stew, it’s the kind of hearty, flavorful and wholesome dish that’s perfect for keeping you warm and nourished during the chilly winter months that lie ahead.
Serves 8 to 10
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1½ teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground
½ teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon chile flakes
¼ cup dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups canned diced tomatoes
1½-inch wide strip orange peel
1½-inch wide strip lemon peel
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ bunch of fresh thyme
1 large pinch saffron
1 medium red onion, cut in ½-inch slices
Extra virgin olive oil as needed
Kosher salt as needed
½ medium fennel bulb, cut in ½-inch slices
1 large carrot, peeled and cut in 2-inch pieces
3 small red potatoes, halved
½ small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1½ teaspoons harissa paste
1 cup thick, full fat, plain Greek yogurt
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Kosher salt to taste
To finish & serve
1 cup chopped roasted or blanched seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, fava beans, cherry tomatoes, okra, summer squash, butternut squash, kale, romanesco or turnips
12 Castelvetrano olives, pitted
¾ cups toasted almonds
1½ tablespoons mint, roughly chopped for garnish
1½ tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped for garnish
For the spice mixture: Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
For the chickpeas: In a small pot, combine the chickpeas, enough water to cover the chickpeas by several inches and the salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium and simmer until the chickpeas are tender, about 1½ to 2 hours. Drain and reserve the liquid.
For the tagine: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, combine the tomatoes, 2 cups of the reserved chickpea stock, orange peel, lemon peel, garlic, thyme and saffron. Season lightly with salt. Cover and bring to a very low simmer while you roast your vegetables.
Heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet in the oven for 10 minutes. Combine the red onions with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture and ½ teaspoon salt. Toss gently, then roast for 6 to 8 minutes until the onions are caramelized but not burned. Add the onions to Dutch oven.
Repeat this process for the fennel, carrots and potatoes. For the cauliflower, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the remaining spice mixture and 1 teaspoon salt. Roasting time will vary for each vegetable. Roast each until just tender, but not soft.
Add the harissa and cooked chickpeas to the pot. Taste and adjust seasoning, then remove from heat, let cool slightly, then refrigerate overnight.
For the lemon yogurt: In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Set aside.
To finish and serve: Place the tagine over medium heat and slowly bring to a simmer. When it’s hot, stir in the roasted or blanched seasonal vegetables and cook another couple of minutes to heat through.
Serve the tagine in warm bowls garnished with olives, yogurt, almonds and the chopped herbs.