My mom is in town this week, visiting, and that means a few things. My dishes are always washed, no matter how much I’ve been cooking, my dog starts minding her manners more, and my fiance gets regaled with stories of what a troublesome lovely child I was.
I’m sure you all know the kinds of stories I mean. You know, the ones you’ve heard thirty times every year since you can remember, and the kinds that though everyone you know has also heard them too, continue to be told and retold.
Though this story hasn’t been trotted out yet during this particular visit, it is an old favorite, and I figure I should go ahead and ‘fess up. Yes, when I was 18 months old, all I would eat was carrots and sweet potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes. In fact, I ate so many carrots and sweet potatoes that I literally turned orange. Orange. Like an oompa loompa. I’m not proud, and unfortunately there are pictures to prove it, but all the excess beta carotine in my body basically made me look like I had a perma Guido tan.
If only the stars of the Jersey Shore knew it was that easy. And orange, streakless tanning has never been so easy!
Fortunately, my grandmother was a pediatrician and could assuage my mother’s fears that she had birthed a mutant, but though I eventually turned back to a normal hue, I never lost my love for sweet potatoes and carrots. I come by it naturally though. There is another family story about my great grandfather, who every time he would go out to eat, would bring a roasted sweet potato to the restaurant in his pocket to supplement his meal – such was his love for sweet potatoes.
So when I found a great little organic market here last weekend outside of El Willy, and I saw the most beautiful purple carrots, I knew they had to come home with me. I didn’t have a recipe in mind, and I didn’t know how they’d even taste, but they practically jumped off of the table and into my shopping bag.
The inspiration to try a recipe like this came to me while I was taking my family through Shanghai World Expo, and having gone to the Moroccan Pavilion and smelling the most heavenly spice blends. I’m sure it would be good with any kinds of carrots, and I actually used a mix of my beautiful purple carrots and normal orange ones. We served it both as a salad and inside of little pitas, with lettuce and feta cheese. However you choose to eat it, this is a recipe for carrots that expands beyond the flavors you’re used to and will really wake your tongue up. It’s a great lunch for the middle of summer and I really hope you try it! And don’t worry – I very highly doubt you will start looking like an oompa loompa.
Moroccan carrot salad
A variation on a recipe found at Food 52
2 tablespoons Harrisa – or if you have no access to such things, one chipotle chile in adobo, rinsed and chopped finely
4 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon (about one lemon)
5 cloves of garlic chopped
1 tsp of black mustard seeds
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 bunch cilantro
salt & pepper*
1. Cut the carrot to rounds about 1/2 cm thick. Toss carrots with olive oil and roast in a 350 degree oven until just tender.
2. While the carrots are roasting, saute the garlic in olive oil until tender, and toss in the mustard seeds. When you start to hear them popping, remove them from the heat immediately. Think of them as little popcorn kernels – you want them to expand but you don’t want the delicate insides to burn.
3. Toss the carrots, the garlic and mustard seeds with the rest of the ingredients, and cover and let it sit in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
4. Before serving, remove from fridge and let come to room temperature. Check for last minute flavoring (do your salad need more salt or more vinegar?), crack some fresh pepper over the top, and serve.
*A note about the pepper I used for this recipe: Not all peppers are created equal. Remember when you stopped using pre-cracked pepper and switched to freshly grinding your pepper right before you needed it? That was a revolution for the taste buds, no? Well, not all peppers are created equal – and various types have various strengths. For this recipe I used freshly cracked green pepper, which I highly recommend for its fruity and spicy flavor. If you don’t have it, don’t worry, it’s not necessary, but the different flavor from the pepper really adds a different dimension to the dish.
“They tasted like mushrooms” <– from my mother, who doesn’t like carrots
“Soft like pudding” <– from Walker, who is crazy and doesn’t like pudding
My mother on the other hand disagrees with the pudding comment. She says it has a more meaty texture. Walker adds, “Like cookies.”
What is wrong with my family? Though it sounds like they didn’t like it much, each of them definitely liked it. In fact, my mom wanted to make sure I wrote this one up for the blog so she could make it for herself when she went home. Despite the odd praise, they both were very happy with the flavors and the texture of the dish. So happy in fact, that they were not exactly speechless but not entirely coherent either.
In any case, I’m going to have to start asking the dog for her opinions instead. Look forward to my next post, where Sida will extol the glory that was my chocolate banana cupcakes dukkah encrusted lamb.