11.11.10 More Carrot, Less Stick

photos by gluttonforlife
Ever since I ate the carrot-and-avocado salad at ABC Kitchen, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's new Manhattan bastion of "farm-to-table" cuisine, I've rekindled my passion for this most common root vegetable. Fear not, I will soon be posting my interpretation of this salad, which involves coating the carrots in a light film of cumin, chile and lemon juice before roasting them to tender perfection. It's truly extraordinary how they become almost meaty. But this is about another carrot salad. It's not wholly unlike the one you'll be presented with at virtually every meal in Morocco, though that tends to be sweeter, more cumin-intensive and full of raisins. This carrot salad I encountered on a visit to Smitten Kitchen, a delightful blog enjoyed by me and about a hundred thousand other people (no, I'm not jealous), and I've been putting off making it because I wanted to first make harissa, a North African spice paste that is one of its key ingredients. I could have just bought some harissa—it's easy enough to find in specialty grocers or online. I've even been hoarding a little pile of the ultra-hot Thai chiles we grew this summer to make it with. But yesterday, poking around in the fridge for something to turn into a quick, late lunch for G and me, I came across some gorgeous red carrots from the farm, remembered that I had seen a big bunch of mint in the yard hardy enough to defy the frost, and was seized with the desire to make spicy carrot salad now. With no harissa on hand, I punted.
patiently waiting to become harissa
I found a little jar of Thai red chile paste and used that instead. I didn't have the feta called for in the recipe either, but I did have a chunk of ricotta salata and thought it would do. Are you feeling a little freer in the kitchen lately? Willing to ad lib a bit, get crazy with your own substitutions? I hope so. Because, let me tell you, this salad was delicious. After G went back to the office, I wound up pulling the tupperware out of the fridge and polishing off the little bit that was left over. And not feeling the least bit guilty. This is one healthy dish. Lots of carotene-rich carrots, a little cheese (eek!), fresh herbs and a spicy, piquant dressing. (Don't you just love that word, piquant?!) It keeps well and goes with almost anything—chicken, chickpeas, cheese, grilled fish, whatever. So does harissa, by the way. Dab it on eggs, potatoes, stews, couscous, sandwiches, etc. Buy a tube or make your own with the recipe I came up with below. It's cobbled together from a few different sources, and it's the one I plan to follow if I ever actually get around to it.
I picked the last of this mint and froze the leaves for mid-winter use
This is the perfect occasion to tell you about my new—and already deeply beloved—kitchen tool: the Microplane Box Grater. If you have not yet discovered the joys of the microplane, you are really missing out. It's the quickest, easiest way to zest citrus and grate parmesan or ginger. Now that it's available in a box configuration, my life is complete.SPICY CARROT SALAD Adapted a bit from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from a reader, who adapted it from her mother, who adapted it, allegedly, from Cuisine Magazine.serves 4 (or 2, depending on what else you're eating and how hungry you are)
3/4 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed and coarsely grated3 tablespoons olive oil1 garlic clove, minced1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds1 teaspoon ground cumin1/2 teaspoon pimentón3/4 teaspoon harissa, or to taste1/2 teaspoon sugar (I used rapadura)3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped100 grams ricotta salata or feta, crumbled or chopped into bitsIn a small sauté pan, heat the oil and cook the garlic, caraway, cumin, pimentón, harissa and sugar for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and a generous pinch of sea salt. Pour over the carrots and mix well. Add the herbs and mix again. Let it rest at room temp for an hour or so, then mix in the cheese and serve.HARISSA makes about 3/4 cup 1 cup hot dried red chile peppers (such as chile de árbol)2 teaspoons sea salt10 cloves garlic2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seeds1/2 teaspoon freshly ground caraway seeds1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for storing2 tablespoons lemon juiceIn a small saucepan, cover the dried chiles with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for an hour.Drain the chiles and place in a food processor with the salt, garlic and spices. Puree, adding the olive oil and lemon juice as needed to lubricate.Push through a fine mesh strainer, pressing hard on the solids. Transfer to a clean jar and add just enough olive oil to cover. Screw on lid, shake well and refrigerate. Stir before using. Flavors will meld and improve over time.

1 Comment

I actually had a box grater on my list of things you might like as a present. I'll scratch that one off. No worries, I have others.
Lisa on November 12, 2010 at 6:04 am — Reply