Monday, April 21, 2014

Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad



Every now and then people express concern at the prospect of cooking for a food writer, as though our standards and expectations exceed the home cooking realm. And I think oh, if only they could see what I eat. I mean sure, I eat well. But it's often ridiculously simple. An omelet with garlic bread. A container of vegetable soup thawed from the freezer. A pound of roasted Brussels sprouts and a dish of pudding. This is not the stuff of Instagram dreams and restaurant menus. This is the stuff of humbly delicious daily life.

And it's good stuff. There can be truly something transformative about a bowl of vegetable soup, even mushy from the freezer. But every now and then, you make something that is just on another plane entirely. Something that employs a few cheffy tricks and techniques, that takes some time and fussing but just elevates the ingredients to a different level entirely.  Like this carrot salad.

I have long been a fan of salads with roasted carrots, and recently served a Moroccan version to a dinner party of 18 people. But this carrot salad — oh, this is something else entirely. The carrots are left dramatically whole, par-boiled and then rolled in a garlicky spice paste, and roasted under a few chunks of citrus. Then the sweetly caramelized roasted lemon and orange are juiced, and that juice gets mixed with a sharper shot of fresh citrus, for a truly transformative dressing. Then come buttery chunks of avocado, tangy sour cream (or, if you're me with leftovers, Middle Eastern lebneh), and a surprising crunchy sprinkle of seeds.

The end result is rich and buttery and sharp and vegetal and creamy and crunchy all at once. It's truly extraordinary. And yes, I still appreciate my sloppy soups and mashed potatoes for dinner. But once in a while, it's nice to really bring it, to show what a dish can be. And to keep all the civilians on their toes.


Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

adapted from ABC Kitchen, as posted on Daily Candy and further adapted by Sassy Radish
serves 4

For the Crunchy Seeds:
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
¼ cup white sesame seeds

For the Salad:
1 pound medium carrots, peeled
1 teaspoons cumin seeds (toasted if you like)
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon chile flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 oranges, halved
2 lemons, halved
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into thin wedges
¼ cup sour cream or lebneh/Greek-style yogurt
3 cups micro greens or sprouts (I used about 1/3 cup of flowering tips and delicate herbs from a local salad mix)

Toast the seeds: Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit, and spread the seeds on a baking sheet. Toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted and starting to color, but not golden brown (~5-7 minutes). Set aside to cool, leaving the oven on.

While you're toasting the seeds, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the carrots and simmer until a knife pierces them easily, about 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a roasting pan.

In a mortar and pestle or food processor, pound together the cumin seeds, garlic, thyme, chili flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and pepper. Pound until crushed and pasty, then add the vinegar and 1/4 cup of the olive oil, mixing to combine. Pour over the carrots, and shake them around until they're well-coated.

Place 2 of the orange halves and two of the lemon halves on top of the carrots, cut side down. Roast until the carrots are golden brown, ~25 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted orange and lemon juice out, and squeeze the juice from the fresh citrus. Measure out 1/4 cup of this mixture (I drank the rest), mix in the remaining two tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the roasted carrots on four plates, and drizzle with a bit of dressing. Divide the avocado and sprouts on top, add more dressing, then top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with the seeds. Serve.

3 comments:

  1. This salad sounds so good! You have to love transforming a simple everyday vegetable like a carrot into something really special. :)

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  2. Is this a warm or a cold salad? To a certain extent it sounds like you could do the cooking prior and the arranging right at dinner.

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    Replies
    1. Room temperature. And yes, breaking down the tasks in advance is definitely a good idea!

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