Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint

You may have noticed by now that I am something of a food blog junkie.  I can't help myself... I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to read about cooking and eating and look at gorgeous photos of gorgeous food... this is my passion!  And every once and awhile, a recipe seems to take the food blog world by storm: one person makes something and raves about it, her commenters make it and go wild for it, and slowly but surely, it makes its way through the blogosphere, gaining popularity like a giant culinary snowball.  So it was with this Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint.
I saw this beauty first on Smitten Kitchen and then on Wednesday Chef and then I knew I could no longer resist its charms.  The salad did not disappoint.  We all agreed it was like nothing we had ever tasted before, and that was probably due to the harrissa.  Harissa is a North African chile paste made from hot chiles, garlic, cumin, corriander, caraway and olive oil.  It is supposedly delicious on everything from eggs to potatoes to veggies to bread... basically anywhere you would smear some mustard, you could smear some harissa instead.  So far, I've only tried it in this salad, but the flavor was gorgeous and complex; a bit floral, a bit herbal, and with a nice but tolerable kick of heat.  Buying jarred harissa would make this recipe a total snap, but we couldn't find any here in our corner of northern New England, so we made our own, using this recipe. I'll be honest, it was a bit much.  Worth the work in the end, but just not what I signed on for when I found this recipe, you know?  The upside is that we now have a tall jar of the stuff, and will be able to use it at will for some time to come.

In any case, the salad is really something special.  The fresh, green tang of mint and parsley against the acid of the lemon and the subtle heat of the harissa create the most unique flavor sensation, and the feta takes it over the top.  This is a perfect side dish for lamb, or to serve as lunch with some great bread.  Especially if you can find a jar of harissa in your local gourmet shop, I recommend giving this recipe a try and seeing what all the hype is about.
Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint
Adapted a bit from a Smitten Kitchen reader, who adapted it from her mother, who adapted from Cuisine Magazine
3/4 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed and coarsely grated
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 crushed clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds or about half as much, ground
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds or about half as much, ground
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon harissa
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1/4 lb. feta, crumbled or chopped into bits
In a small sauté pan, cook the garlic, caraway, cumin, paprika, harissa and sugar in the oil until fragrant, about one to two minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Pour over the carrots and mix. Add the herbs and mix. Leave to infuse for an hour and add the feta before eating.

One final note... check out Smitten Kitchen's photograph of the same salad:
This tells me that:
a) I need better knife skills.
b) I need a better camera.  SUCH photo/camera envy!  Drool. Drool. Drool.
P.S. -


  1. Ah, SMJ. How I love my daily giggle. You are too much!

    I am going to try this recipe immediately - well, as soon as I get my hands on some Harissa, that is. I'll let you know where I find it....

    One question: What technique do you recommend to produce "coarsely grated carrots"? I tend to use a standing grater, by hand, and I inevitably end up grating some of my hands & fingers with the carrot. Is this just par for the course, or is there a better way????


  2. Hey Kel,

    I tend to be in charge of things like grating carrots - you know, goes with opening-jars and killing-bugs duty. I'd recommend a box grater with a side that leaves some crunch in the carrots, rather than too-thinly sliced ribbons. If you're feeling randy, there also the mandolin with a narrow blade attachment adjusted to make nice little match sticks. Any shape that tends to complement the texture of the feta will do.

    shout out to RW!

  3. Also, if you have a grater attachment for a food processor, that makes quick work of carrots and your fingers are nice and safe above the feed tube.

  4. Thanks for the tag-team response! Love hearing from you both, and you have fabulous suggestions. I can't wait to get my stuff out of storage (I know you understand) and discover/remember whether or not I have a grater attachment for my food processor.
    In the meantime, I'll look for a grater or mandolin as you suggested, B.