So, last night I made the most impressive dish that has ever come straight from my brain and out into a flurry of kitchen activity in my entire life. If you know me, you know I am not a person that is quick to sing my own praises. But y’all. This was SO GOOD. Like, I-would-pay-top-dollar-in-better-economic-times-to-eat-that-at-a-fancy-restaurant good. Harissa Roasted Carrot Salad is my new favorite thing to eat, and I'm pretty sure it will be yours, too.
Here’s the scenario: I spent hours of my day wondering about what I should cook with my ever dwindling supply of fresh veggies. (Don’t judge me! It’s quarantine!) I was also looking for something that would be light, easy to digest and have a lot of probiotics because earlier in the day I had an upset stomach.
I had already eaten oatmeal and a TJ’s Chicken Ramen cup, so I wanted to give myself a bit more flavor and definitely a heavy helping of easy to digest veggies to round out my bland diet earlier in the day.
All of a sudden it struck me: I had a two pound bag of baby carrots that needed eating and a jar of TJ’s Harissa floating around in the fridge. From there, it was a snowball of racing thoughts - add that red onion! Garlic! I don’t have yogurt… dang. Wait, I’ve got TJ’s Tzatziki! That’s gonna be even better! What about the arugula that I needed to thin out for my garden? That’s gonna be my green!! Wait… I forgot I have preserved lemons that I made at the beginning of the lockdown that I haven’t used yet… those would be PERFECT! And pickled red onions?? YES! Wait! I have these two pieces of uneaten cornbread that would be PERFECT LITTLE BREADCRUMBS!!! Y’all. It was as though the kitchen gods were speaking through me. I felt like Remy from Ratatouille.
What resulted from my frenzied 30 minutes of active cooking (plus a little waiting time to make sure the veggies got nice and caramelized) was perhaps the thing I am most proud of in all of my kitchen achievements. My carrot salad concoction hit every note - there were warm elements and cooling ones, soft bits and crunchy ones, it was spicy and sweet and sour and umami… It. Was. Everything. Joe exclaimed that he would happily eat it every day for the rest of his life, and I honestly agree.
Do I recommend you go out and buy everything to create this crazy concoction? If you have the means and it’s time for your weekly grocery run, sure. If not, the bigger point I wanted to make was the importance of listening to your instincts.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a strong tendency of reading a few recipes that have the ingredients I want to use and then just mashing them up into some hybrid that means I can focus a bit more on my glass of wine and less on my tablet. Sometimes it’s awesome! Sometimes it’s mediocre. Other times it is merely edible. And once or twice in the 17 years I’ve been cooking for myself it’s turned into frozen pizza night, because ew.
But you know what? You learn from all the things you make, and sometimes the whimsy of throwing a bunch of $#*+ together that sounds good to you will end up being your go-to recipe for the summer, like this one will be for me. I hope you enjoy!
Harissa Roasted Carrot Salad
- 2 lb Carrots baby, or cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 large Red Onion sliced
- 10 whole Peeled Garlic Cloves I live in a world where there’s never too much garlic. Use your best judgement here
- ½-2/3 jar TJ's Harissa thinned with about ¼ C Olive Oil
- 1 ½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1 tablespoon Granulated Sugar optional, helps with caramelizing process
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 4 oz Crumbled Feta
- 1 tablespoon Preserved Lemon finely chopped
- 1 handful Arugula
- ¼ C Pickled Red Onions
- 1 dollop Tzatziki for each plate
- 4 pinches TJ's Dukkah
- 3 tablespoon Cornbread Bread Crumbs (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425F. In a large bowl, toss carrots, red onions, garlic cloves, olive oil-thinned harissa, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper. Spread on a non-stick rimmed baking sheet in a single layer, giving as much space between the veggies as possible so they can roast instead of steam.
- Roast for approximately 40 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender. Optional: Hubby likes things on the burnier end of the spectrum, so I added an extra 4 mins at the end of baking time under the broiler to get that nice char flavor on some of the wayward pieces of onion and the exposed parts of the carrots. If this is not in your flavor wheelhouse, stop when the veggies are the color and texture YOU like them!
- To plate, spread dollop of tzatziki on bottom of plate. Pile high with roasted carrots, onions and garlic. Top with: Crumbled Feta (Goat would also be nice here, or even some fried up halloumi) A handful of Arugula (I’m growing it from seed, and it’s SO EASY AND CHEAP) Chopped Preserved Lemons (easy to make, and so very flavorful. These will forever be another staple in my fridge. Not necessary, but definitely an upgrade) Pickled Red Onions (I make these all the time and they always live in my fridge. I recommend you do the same. They’re SO EASY and add so much flavor to tacos, salads, chili, sandwiches, and basically anything else you want a vinegar-y punch on. Seriously. Make pickled red onions as soon as you’re done reading this.) Hefty two pinches TJ’s Dukkah Mix (a lovely mix of seeds, nuts and coriander… don’t fret if you don’t have it! Sub in some chopped or sliced nuts - almonds, pistachios and cashews would all be awesome, I do believe) Cornbread Bread Crumbs ( Totally optional! I had some leftover pieces of cornbread from chili night a few nights ago, and hadn’t determined any use for them. I crumbled them up while the veggies were cooking and sauteed them in a pan with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and our personal favorite, TJ’s Ghost Pepper to make some spicy breadcrumbs. If you have some bread that’s going stale and needs using, I always recommend making breadcrumbs! They’re awesome on salads like this, on pasta for some extra crunch, or even just to keep on hand for a week or so to make fish cakes or meatloaf. Flavor them how you wish - garlic, paprika, oregano, chili flakes, anything - the spice cabinet is your playground! The cornbread was an especially fun, smoky addition to the plate though, because I made it with bacon fat. That extra layer of flavor was so dang YUM. Y’all are saving your bacon fat, right?!? Because start if you’re not. It’s a flavor powerhouse, it keeps at room temp for up to 6 months in a mason jar, and it uses up something that would otherwise go to waste. Excuse my rambling. I just get so dang excited.)