Moroccan Carrot Salad is an exotic mix of zesty citrus, sweet carrots, fresh herbs, and feta, dressed with a warmly spiced, piquant honey-lemon vinaigrette. Makes a quick, refreshing side that is ready to serve in just 15 minutes!
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A while ago, Mr B and I took a cooking class at our local Sur La Table, and not only did we have a fabulous time together, but we left with some amazing recipes to try at home, too!
Our instructor for the day was Chef Priscilla Umeda, a beautifully warm, captivating woman with great passion and skill for cooking. Chef Priscilla, originally from Nigeria, shared with us that she grew up as the oldest female child in a family of eight children, so it fell to her to “insure her siblings were fed.” Thus, the seeds for creating delicious food and educating others in culinary arts were planted early.
Now a trained, professional chef (with a degree in Business Administration) Chef Priscilla is actively engaged in the culinary training of both home cooks like us and professional chefs.
Post Updated May 4, 2020 (Originally published September 6, 2016)
Before we got to work, Chef Priscilla gave us a little history about Moroccan cuisine. We learned that Moroccan cuisine is considered one of the most important cuisines in the world, due in great part to the remarkable diversity of colonizers and immigrants who have influenced it over the last millennia.
The cuisine of Morocco’s first inhabitants, the Berbers, still exists today in dishes like tagine and couscous. It took on spices, nuts and dried fruits, and the sweet and sour combinations from Arab invasions; olives, olive juice and citrus from the Moors; pickling from Moroccan Jews; and kebabs from the Ottoman Empire. The short-lived French-Moroccan colony left behind a culture of cafes, pastries, and wine.
During our class, Chef Priscilla walked us through the preparation of four traditional Moroccan dishes: Chicken Tagine with Dried Fruits (the foundation for my Apricot Chicken Tagine with Ginger & Mint recipe), Couscous with Saffron & Ginger, Cardamom Madeleines with Rosewater Glaze, and the bones for the recipe I’m sharing today: Moroccan Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta & Mint.
Moroccan Carrot Salad – It’s a Matter of Taste
This Moroccan Carrot Salad is definitely a matter of taste. Mr B, for example, is not fond of it; while I very much enjoy its zesty, citrusy bite and warmly spiced mix of fresh flavors.
Here’s a test:
Think about biting into a fresh lemon slice.
If the mere idea of biting into a lemon slice squeezes your entire face into a frowny furrow, this may not be your favorite carrot salad ever. (If that’s the case, try our Kale & Carrot Salad or Armenian Eggplant & Carrot Salad instead.)
Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of other flavors besides lemon in this salad, including honey, which balances and softens the punch of the lemon; but if you don’t enjoy the sharp, astringent side of the lemon wheel, this salad may not be your favorite.
However, if the idea of biting into a lemon slice immediately makes you pucker up and smile, you should definitely give this Moroccan Carrot Salad a try.
Preserved lemons are among the primary ingredients in this Moroccan Carrot Salad, and the reason for that intense lemon flavor in the recipe that I just mentioned. An indispensable ingredient in Moroccan cooking, the unique pickled taste and texture of preserved lemons cannot be duplicated with fresh products.
Is there any good substitute for preserved lemons?
Preserved lemons are not something everyone keeps in the pantry, and sometimes you just don’t have the means to get them. (And sometimes you just want to make a dang salad recipe off the internet without having to go out and find some fancy ingredient you will only use once! I get it.)
For this recipe, you can buy preserved lemons in specialty stores, or make them at home – or make my Quick Preserved Lemon Substitute.
Because guess what?! I don’t always have preserved lemons either. (Like, for example, during a pandemic.) So, while not optimal, I’ve created a passable preserved lemon substitute – essentially a quick-brined lemon rind – that works well with this salad recipe.
You can find step-by-step instructions for how to make my Quick Preserved Lemon Substitute following the recipe below.
How does using quick-fake Preserved Lemons compare to using the real thing?
Comparing the flavor of this salad with and without real preserved lemons, I have to say; Yes, authentic preserved lemons do add a deeply complex, unique flavor to this Moroccan Carrot Salad. There is no way a 1-hour hack can even come close. So if you have them, by all means, use them.
However, if you don’t have them on hand, go ahead and make my Quick Preserved Lemon Substitute. I find that, while the quick-fake lacks the depth of flavor that the preserved lemons impart, it is otherwise a quite satisfying lemony, bright, and mildly briny substitution in this salad.
Moroccan Carrot Salad
- Small Skillet
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 medium garlic cloves minced
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground caraway seeds
- ½ tablespoon harissa
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1½ tablespoon honey
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 preserved lemon rind only, finely minced
- Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 pound grated carrots peeled and julienned or coarsely grated
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 4 ounces feta crumbled
- Heat oil in small skillet over medium heat.
- Add garlic, cumin, caraway, and harissa. Cook until fragrant; about one minute.
- Remove from heat and add the cinnamon, paprika, honey, lemon juice, and preserved lemon. Stir to combine.
- Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine carrots, herbs, and feta.
- Toss until evenly mixed.
- Pour prepared sauce over carrot mixture.
- Mix until well combined.
- Chill before serving. Garnish with additional fresh herbs, feta, and lemon slices.
Quick Preserved Lemon Substitute
- 1 lemon
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- For each preserved lemon rind, you will need one lemon and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
- Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the lemon rind. I aim for halfway between the fruit and the zest, in the middle of the rind.
- Mince the lemon rind, but don’t pulverize it.
- Sprinkle salt over lemon rind, and work together with the back of a spoon. Allow to sit for at least one hour, and preferably overnight before using. Use as is. Do not attempt to rinse lemon rind.
PRO TIP: If you’re anything like me, you may not keep ground caraway seeds around all the time. Whole caraway seeds can easily be ground using a small mortar and pestle, spice grinder, or clean coffee grinder.
This Moroccan Carrot Salad pairs well with our Apricot Chicken Tagine with Ginger & Mint.
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