Wednesday, January 21, 2015

{Recipe Redux} Roasted Carrot Harissa Spread

I have been known, on occasion, to eat salsa straight from the jar with a spoon.  Hot sauce on eggs? Yes!  Spicy zhug on falafel? Of course.  Pasta Arrabiata? The spicier, the better.

So when I saw this month’s Recipe Redux challenge—spicy, smoky foods—I was happy.  Spicy may be on-trend in food this year, but it’s always been a winner in my kitchen.  Red chile flakes make an appearance in almost every recipe.  I like their subtle heat better than the sometimes harsh bite of black pepper.

I made this Roasted Carrot Harissa Spread for a party and served it as part of a crostini bar with several other dips and homemade ricotta.  It’s sweet and slightly smoky from the deeply roasted carrots, spicy from the dried chilies, and rich and creamy simply from a little olive oil and a good blender.  It will keep in the refrigerator for several days—if you can prevent yourself from eating it with a spoon.

If you've never heard of harissa, it is a spicy Middle Eastern and North African condiment made from blending chile peppers with toasted spices and olive oil, and I use it often in cooking.  It is sometimes blended with tomatoes to make a sauce, but I blended it with roasted carrots to make a thick and creamy dip or spread.  It's so delicious, you'd never guess it's a healthy and fiber-filled source of beta carotene! 

While I originally made the harissa as a dip, since then I’ve eaten it for breakfast lunch and dinner.  Here are a few ideas:

I eat an open-faced egg sandwich for breakfast almost every morning.  Spread the carrot harissa on toast and top with a fried egg.  You did it—vegetables for breakfast! And you didn’t even notice. 

You know how much we love avocado toast!  For lunch, spice up your avocado toast by spreading the harissa on toast and topping with slices of avocado and a dollop of ricotta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

For dinner, stir the harissa into hot whole wheat pasta with some fresh arugula and top with fresh goat cheese.

If you make the harissa, we’d love to hear from you! What’s your favorite way to use it?

Roasted Carrot Harissa Spread

This recipe was adapted from this one from Food52.

3 dried ancho chile peppers
1 dried ancho chile pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon black caraway seeds
6 large carrots
Sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for drizzling
Zest of one lemon
Juice of half a lemon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the chilies in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them stand for 30 minutes, until softened.

Place the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and black caraway seeds in a small pan.  Heat the pan over medium heat and toast the spices for a few minutes, until you can smell them roasting.  Take them off the heat and let them cool.  Grind them in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle. 

Place the carrots on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Season with sea salt and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over carrots. Toss to coat evenly.  Roast the carrots for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the carrots are browned and very tender.

Drain the water from chilies, reserving water.  Remove the stem from the chilies and then place the chilies in the bowl of a food processor (if you don’t want the harissa as spicy, remove some of the seeds).

Add the carrots to the food processor, along with the toasted spices, another tablespoon olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Process the mixture until it is very smooth, using a little of the chile water to loosen the paste, if necessary.  It should have a very thick consistency.

Taste and adjust salt, lemon and olive oil, as needed.  Transfer harissa to a container with an airtight lid, cover top surface with a drizzle of olive oil and let mixture sit at least one hour and up to 24 (in refrigerator) before using.  The harissa will keep for 3 – 4 days, covered, in the refrigerator.

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