What: Moroccan Carrot Salad with Ginger
Where: The Art of Simple Food
Who: Alice Waters
This salad is intensely spicy, both in flavor from the cumin and coriander, and in heat from the cayenne and fresh ginger. There is also a hint of bitter from the spices. Next time, I will either lower the measurement from 1/2 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon of both the cumin and the coriander, and the ginger to a 1/2-inch piece, or increase the number of carrots from 4 to 6 to let the spices spread further. With this particular attempt, I balanced the savory heat and slight bitter flavor with a handful of sweet currants. The whole thing became a pleasing balance of color, texture, and flavor. Currants are indigenous to Moroccan fare anyway, so it was an authentic addition.
Waters calls for toasting the whole cumin and coriander first until fragrant before grinding them. This is an important step. The toasting actually both mellows and sweetens the acidity of the spices while at the same time intensifying their fragrance (and thus their flavor). It’s the same experience as eating a raw nut versus a toasted one. For grinding, I used my mortar and pestle. A rough-stone version is more effective for this job than a smooth marble version.
Make this a day, or several hours, in advance and refrigerate to give time for the carrots to absorb the flavors. I chose to use raw carrots ribboned with a potato peeler, but Waters’ method is to cut them into little batons and cook them until pliable but still crisp in the center. You then pour the dressing of the spices, ginger, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and olive oil over the warm carrots. Since I was using cold, raw carrots, I warmed the dressing before pouring it over them. This helps to open the “pores” of the carrots and let the flavors seep in, and then as the carrots cool they batten down the hatches and the flavor is sealed.