Excerpted from CROSSROADS by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015.
This recipe has sentimental meaning for me—it is an ode to my childhood nanny, Sol. Both of my parents worked full-time, so for the first eight years of my life, my sisters and I were like Sol’s adopted children. Sol came to Israel from Morocco in the mid-1950s, and years later, thankfully, she found her way to the Ronnen household. Her cooking was so different from the food we knew. Sol’s was laced with chilies and spices, and her carrot salad was a mainstay on the table.
She made this dish with sliced carrots and a type of chili pepper that, sadly, isn’t available outside Israel. So I restructured her killer recipe using whole rainbow carrots and guajillo chilies.
- 1½ pounds small rainbow carrots (about 24), tops trimmed
- 8 dried red chilies, such as guajillo, stems removed
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup micro greens, such as Hearts of Fire (see Note)
- ¼ cup Rosemary-Fried Almonds (recipe follows) or toasted Marcona almonds, smashed with a mallet or heavy pan
- Flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
- To prepare the carrots: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with water and adding a tray of ice cubes.
- Blanch the carrots in the boiling water until tender when pierced with a knife, about 3 minutes. Drain the carrots and plunge into the ice bath to shock them—i.e., stop the cooking and cool them quickly; this procedure also locks in the carrots’ bright color.
- Drain the carrots again. You want them to be relatively uniform in size, so if any of them are large, cut them lengthwise in half.
- To prepare the marinade: Put a small dry skillet over low heat, add the chilies, and toast for 1 or 2 minutes; shake the pan so they don’t scorch. Break up the chilies and put them in a food processor. Pulse the chilies to a coarse powder; you should have about ½ cup.
- Put the chili powder in a mixing bowl, add the vinegar, garlic, cumin, kosher salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, and whisk until blended. While whisking, slowly pour in the oil in a stream until emulsified.
- Put the carrots in a mixing bowl and pour in the chili mixture, tossing to coat. Marinate for 1 to 2 hours, tossing periodically.
- To serve: Crisscross the carrots on a platter. Scatter the micro greens and almonds on top and season with flaked sea salt.
Hearts on Fire
Hearts on Fire is a variety of micro greens with garnet-colored veins and stems. They not only give stunning color to a dish but also add a vibrant tart, citrusy flavor, reminiscent of sorrel.