“Whenever I chop fresh herbs, I think of you.” That’s what my friend Ginny told me, and it is one of the most wonderful ways to be remembered that I can think of.
There’s a lot of chopping in these salads, and lots of fresh herb flavor. I made them to celebrate the beginning of summer and the end-of-spring harvest of young carrots, snap peas, spring onions, early cucumbers, fresh herbs, and abundant salad greens.
My garden is a wild abundance of flowers and herbs, rubbing shoulders (if not pushing and shoving) among the vegetables. There are volunteers and galloping weeds looking for available space. It’s a jungle…and a salad maker’s paradise. I wander the pathways with a basket, picking this and that–whatever looks colorful and tasty. Then I invited friends for lunch.
My friends and I ate salads and toasted the summer solstice. Then we jumped into summer by plunging in an icy- cold, rushing mountain stream.
Carrots in Harissa
A Middle Eastern inspired carrot salad with North African chile paste…. tone it down for a salad, spice it up for a condiment.
Ingredients: 8 to 10 young carrots (about 1 1/2 lbs), 2 Tbs olive or sunflower oil, spring onions or sweet onion (about 1 1/2 cups small dice), 1/2 tsp crushed cumin seed, 1/2 tsp crushed caraway seed, 1 tsp coarsely ground coriander seed, 3 Tbs fresh lemon juice, pinch sugar, 1 to 2 Tbs harissa (how hot is your harissa?), 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped chives, 2 to 3 cups baby spinach, arugula, or kale for serving
Peel the carrots and cut them into 1 1/2 to 2-inch long, thin matchsticks (or round slices). Blanch in salted boiling water for 1 minute (or steam about 5). Chill the carrots in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the spices and cook 30 to 60 seconds. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté 3 to 5 minutes to soften. Add the harissa and stir to combine. Transfer the onion-spice mixture to a large bowl and add the carrots, stirring to coat well. Stir in the chopped fresh herbs, lemon juice, and sugar. Taste and adjust the flavors, adding salt, lemon juice or more harissa as needed.
Make a bed of greens (spinach, endive, arugula, kale…) on a platter or shallow bowl and arrange the carrot salad on top.
*Excellent Spicy Carrot Tapenade
Mix extra carrot salad with green olives, chopped pecans, capers, and garlic.
I make harissa in the fall with whatever hot chiles I harvest from the garden. This year it was a combination of red jalapenos, aji dulce, and a type of cayenne called Red Fire. Naomi smoked the peppers, and I blended them with spices and garlic to make the paste. Harissa can be made with dried chiles any time of year. Choose the type and quantity of chiles according to your heat tolerance.
Ingredients: 1 to 2 oz dried red chiles (ancho, Anaheim, New Mexico Red, pasilla, cayenne, guajillo, etc), 1 roasted and peeled red bell pepper, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp cumin seed, 1/2 tsp caraway seed, 1 tsp coriander seed, 2 to 4 garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp red wine vinegar or 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, 2 Tbs olive oil
Toast the dried chiles briefly on a dry skillet over medium heat. Remove the seeds and stems and put the chiles in a bowl. Cover with hot water and let soak 1/2 hour, until soft.
Toast the spices 30 to 60 seconds on the hot skillet, stirring constantly. Transfer to a mortar and grind to a powder. Add the garlic and salt and pound to make a paste. Add the paprika, vinegar or lemon, and oil. Stir to combine, then scrape the mixture into a blender, along with the soaked hot chiles and the roasted red pepper. Process to a smooth paste. Store in the refrigerator of freezer.
Sugar Snap Pea Tabbouleh
This is an herb salad made with a little bulgur wheat and snap peas replacing the usual tomatoes. It is sharp and refreshing with lemon juice, and best eaten soon after it is made. If you don’t have fine grain bulgur wheat, use regular bulgur wheat and prepare it with boiling water. Let it soak 10 to 15 minutes, then drain in a large sieve. The salad is also good made with cooked freekah or quinoa.
Ingredients: 1/4 cup fine grain bulgur wheat, 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs warm water, 12 oz sugar snap peas (strings removed), 3 small cucumbers, 4 to 5 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves, 3 or 4 thinly sliced scallions (white and tender green parts), 1 finely diced seeded jalapeno, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp ground allspice, 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1 to 2 tsp pomegranate molasses and Romaine lettuce leaves for serving
Dressing: Using a mortar and pestle, mash1 garlic clove with a pinch coarse sea salt to make a paste. Add 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, a pinch sugar, and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Whisk to combine.
Pour water over bulgur in a small bowl or saucepan. Leave 1/2 hour to soften.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch snap peas 30 seconds. Drain and cool in ice water. Drain, chop in 1/2-inch pieces, and set aside in a colander.
To chop parsley, hold a handful of parsley sprigs together tightly with one hand and use a sharp chef knife to slice the tender stems and leaves into very thin shreds. Cut cleanly to avoid bruising the leaves. Discard tough stem ends. Thinly slice mint leaves only–no stems.
In a large bowl, mix together the softened bulgur, chopped peas, diced cucumber, chopped parsley and mint, scallions, and jalapeno. Sprinkle with salt and spices and toss to combine. Pour on the dressing, toss well, and taste. Adjust the seasoning. Drizzle pomegranate molasses on top. Serve with Romaine lettuce leaves for scooping.
*Homemade pomegranate molasses: Boil 1 quart pomegranate juice (add 1/4 cup sugar if unsweetened, or 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice if sweetened) until reduced to syrup. That’s it. You can use cranberry or cherry juice for delicious variations.
Mango-Avocado and Black Bean Salad
It appears to be mango season in Western North Carolina, so I have been making mango-avocado salsa recently and love the combination. I added cucumbers and black beans for a salad.
Ingredients: 1 can or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, 1 large firm-ripe mango, 1 firm-ripe avocado, 3 small thin-skinned cucumbers, 1 cup diced red onion, 2 seeded and diced jalapeno chiles, 1/2 tsp toasted and crushed cumin seed, 2 Tbs thinly sliced mint leaves, 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, salt
Drain and rinse the black beans, set aside in a sieve. Peel and dice the mango and avocado. Dice the cucumbers. Put all the ingredients in a salad bowl and toss gently to combine. Add the lime juice, and season with salt.