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The Feast of Unleavened Bread : Carrot Salad: There's Good Moroccan Tonight

April 04, 1993|FAYE LEVY

To many of us, the carrot salad is a sweet concoction of grated raw carrots with raisins, mayonnaise and sugar. When I was growing up, my mother often made it this way, probably to entice my brother and me to eat carrots. I guess the idea was that a little more sweetness would make the already-sweet vegetable tempting.

For adults, the naturally sweet flavor of carrots can be more interesting when tangy seasonings are added as a counterpoint. Mediterranean carrot salads, for example, are typically flavored with lemon juice or vinegar and sometimes with spices such as coriander or cumin, rather than sugar. Instead of mayonnaise, a small amount of oil enriches the dressing, resulting in a light salad that is lower in fat than the carrot salads familiar to us.

In southern Mediterranean countries, salads featuring cooked carrots are more popular than those made with raw grated ones. Cooking the carrots brings out their sweetness and makes them seem richer and more satisfying. In addition, the nutrients of cooked carrots are more readily absorbed by the body, because the cooking helps break down the tough cell walls of the vegetable.

Moroccan cooks have devised an ingenious way to make carrot salads. They finish cooking the carrots in the dressing so its flavors are absorbed as the vegetable cooks. In Moroccan and Tunisian restaurants and homes you'll often find this type of salad served as part of a selection of vegetable hors d'oeuvres.

Sometimes artichokes or potatoes are added to these carrot salads to make more colorful appetizers. I like to expand on this idea by pairing other vegetables with the carrots. Asparagus and carrots are a stunning combination that adds a lively note to the dinner table. Bright-green sugar snap peas also blend beautifully with carrots. All sorts of dressings are wonderful with these salads, from European vinaigrettes to Chinese-style dressings flavored with hoisin sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.

These carrot salads make lovely light appetizers for festive spring dinners and are delicious warm or cold. Unlike many salads, they keep well and can be made ahead.

For this beautiful salad, the carrots and asparagus are cut in pieces of similar size and shape. The carrots simmer in a cumin-accented dressing and are combined with the asparagus pieces. Fresh lemon juice is added at the last minute so it won't cause the asparagus to lose its bright - green color.

CARROT AND ASPARAGUS SALAD

10 medium carrots, peeled

Salt

1 1/2 pounds medium-thick asparagus, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

5 to 6 tablespoons oil

2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice

Cayenne pepper

Cut carrots into 2-inch lengths and quarter pieces. Halve any pieces that are wider than others. Place carrots in saucepan, cover with water and add dash salt. Bring to boil and simmer over medium heat until just tender, 15 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

Add asparagus to cooking liquid and boil, uncovered, until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove asparagus, reserving cooking liquid. Rinse asparagus with cold water, drain well and set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions and saute until tender, 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup vegetable cooking liquid, red pepper flakes, caraway seeds, paprika, cumin and dash salt. Bring to boil, stirring. Reduce heat to low. Add carrots and simmer, uncovered, until sauce is reduced and coats carrots thoroughly, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus and mix gently.

Serve hot, warm or cold. Add lemon juice just before serving. Season to taste with cayenne pepper. Salad should be fairly spicy. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

144 calories; 64 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 15 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 1.85 grams fiber.

In this spicy Moroccan salad, the carrots cook in a dressing of sauteed garlic, vinegar and hot pepper sauce.

PIQUANT COOKED CARROT SALAD

5 medium carrots, sliced

Salt

3 tablespoons oil

3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Place carrots in saucepan, cover with water. Add dash salt. Bring to boil and simmer over medium heat until tender, about 20 minutes.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and saute several seconds. Add vinegar, water, hot pepper sauce, caraway seeds, paprika and dash salt. Bring to boil, stirring. Reduce heat to low.

When carrots are tender, drain thoroughly. Add to vinegar mixture and simmer, uncovered, until sauce is reduced and coats carrots thoroughly, about 5 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings. Serve hot or cold. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

134 calories; 110 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 1.02 grams fiber.

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