Code Orange – Ottolenghi’s Spicy Carrot Salad with Preserved Lemon
Those who know me know I love carrots. Carrots of all shapes, varieties, colors – I love them all equally. I love that they are so savory and yet when cooked, release an amazing amount of sugar. I love how they impart an essential and irreplaceable earthy sweetness on broths and stews. I love the sound, the snap, they make when you crunch them between your teeth. I love them so much that I once ate enough carrots to tint my skin (mainly my face and hands but especially the webbing between each finger) orange. I was ushered to the doctor by my mother who was highly concerned at my fake-tan-ish glow, and told I would need to go cold turkey on my favorite vice for a while.
Perhaps it is the season, there aren’t a lot of enticing veggies around at this time of year, but I have been back on my “drug” of choice lately, it makes part of my (almost) nightly post-gym snack of carrots, raisins, and a bit of yogurt or turkey. I have, luckily, learned some restraint over the years, while the carrot habit has returned, the hue has not. And my favorite snack has found its way into other dishes as well. This last weekend Dustin and I took on the rather spicy carrot salad featured in my one of my favorite cookbooks, “Plenty” by Yatam Ottolenghi. The salad reminds me of one we frequently ordered at the middle eastern restaurant on the University of Delaware campus where Dustin and I had our first date. The al dente carrots mix with the herbs and spices to form a zesty salad that makes a nice side for grilled meats, a zingy addition to salads, and a great stand alone snack.
Carrots are, unsurprisingly, quite good for you. Carrots are notoriously high in beta carotene, and powerful anti-oxidants. Carrots are also quite rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and serve as a much needed source of fiber. Carrots can be grown nearly year round and are one of the most predominantly consumed vegetables in the US. China is the world’s leading grower of carrots but they have been widely cultivated in Europe since the 15th century. The original varieties grow in Europe were primarily red, purple, and yellow heirloom varieties. Carrots provide the most nutrients when eaten shortly after harvesting. Look for carrots that are firm and free of splits, preferable with the greens still in tact as the greens are an excellent indicator of freshness. The greens are indeed edible and can be cooked along side other dark leaf greens in traditional “greens” dishes. The greens should be detached from the roots before storing in the refrigerator as the tops will wick away moisture from the carrots themselves.
Spicy Carrot Salad, Adapted From”Plenty”by Yatam Ottolenghi
2 LB Carrots
1/3 Cup Olive Oil, Plus Extra for Serving
1 Medium Onion, Finely Chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, Crushed and Chopped
2-3 Medium Green Chilies, Finely Chopped (Seeds Removed for Less Heat)
2 Green Onions, Finely Chopped
1/8 TSP Ground Cloves
1/4 TSP Ground Ginger
1/2 TSP Ground Coriander
3/4 TSP Ground Cinnamon
1 TSP Hot Smoked Paprika
1 TSP Ground Cumin
1 TBSP White Wine Vinegar or Sherry Vinegar
1 Chopped Preserved (or Pickled) Lemon
1 1/4 Cups Cilantro, Rinsed and Chopped
Ground Sumac for Garnish
1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt
Peel the carrots and cut them into fun shapes of equivalent size, approximately 1/2 inch thick. Place in a large saucepan of salted water and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes until just tender. Drain and leave out.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the onion for 12-15 minutes until soft and lightly caramelized. Add the carrots to the pan, followed by the remaining ingredients except cilantro and yogurt. Remove the pan from heat, season with a hefty dose of salt, stir everything together well and allow to cool.
Before serving, stir in the cilantro, adjusting the seasoning to taste in necessary. Serve as a delicious side dish or fresh crunchy snack, along with a spoonful of yogurt, shake or two of ground sumac, a drizzle of olive oil, and extra cilantro.