Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moroccan carrot salad with pistachios

Moroccan salads are very different from the salads and dips that we typically associate with Middle Eastern cuisines.  Rather than hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli and similar dishes, there is a wide variety of sweet, tart, spicy and aromatic dishes of cooked and raw vegetables.  One of my favorites, and one of the easiest, is a dish of grated carrots dressed with lemon juice, sugar, and rose or orange-flower water.  After buying a jar of pistachio oil for my enhancement of Yotam Ottolenghi's Pistachio, Watercress, and Orange Blossom Salad, I was looking around for new uses.   We were going to serve a chicken tagine with artichokes for dinner on Friday, and when I woke up on Friday morning at 5 am, an hour before my alarm, I started making appetizers with whatever vegetables we had in the fridge.  Since we had both carrots and pistachio oil, I prepared this riff on the classic grated carrot salad.  It give the salad a buttery, nutty quality (I know I am repeating myself) and modesty aside, I think it is light years beyond the original. 

Moroccan carrot salad with pistachios

  • about 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 teaspoons of sugar, to taste
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon orange-flower water
  • 1-2 tablespoons pistachio oil (see below)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • One pound carrots
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped  unsalted pistachio meats, or more if you really like them

  1. Combine the salt, sugar, lemon juice, orange flower water and pistachio oil in the bottom of a serving bowl, and mix well with a fork. Add a pinch of cayenne if you want
  2. Peel and grate the carrots on the large wholes of a hand grater.  ( The processor disk of a food processor would also work, but avoid the carrot shreds you can buy in the supermarket for this dish.  They do not exude the juice that hand-grated carrots do, and this becomes part of the sauce. )
  3. Mix the carrots into the dressing in the serving bowl, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Garnish with the chopped pistachios just before serving.
  5. Serves 4-8 as part of a selection of appetizer salads.
To make the original version:  just leave out the pistachio oil and nuts.

Pistachio oil:  I am hooked, but if you don't want to spring for it, you can use olive oil.  For something more authentically Moroccan try argan oil, which I have actually never tasted but will one day.  

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