Carrot Salad with Parsley, Dill and Feta

This past weekend was lovely.

It was lively and relaxing, full of trips uptown to see old friends, trips downtown to see new friends, and trips to the farmer’s market, and perfectly balanced out with some quality time in my kitchen and quiet time on my couch. It was wonderful — except that it was beastly hot, and the thought of turning on the oven to make this olive oil cake I was hoping to bake Saturday afternoon for my friend’s birthday party was totally out of the question.

More to the point, it was time for lunch, and I was hungry.

I desperately wanted tabbouleh, but even the thought of boiling water to cook up some grains was enough to make me wilt. I needed something cold, something crisp and refreshing, and I needed it STAT.

Then, out of the blue, I remembered this carrot salad with harissa, feta and mint that I had salivated over stumbled upon earlier in the week while perusing one of my favorite blogs. It promised to be everything I wanted: crisp and refreshing; light yet satisfying; minty and herbal; sweet and salty. All of that, plus a little kick of citrus? I was sold. Once I got this recipe into my head, wild horses couldn’t stop me from making it.

And if wild horses couldn’t, then I certainly wasn’t going to let the fact that I didn’t have any mint on hand get in the way. Or any harissa. Hmm. Or caraway seeds.

Okay, so it looked like I was going to be winging it.

What I did have was a big bunch of parsley, some dill, some Thai chili garlic paste and coriander seeds. And carrots and feta, of course. I set to work.

The recipe called for heating the spices in the oil for about one to two minutes. In the interest of avoiding having to turn on the heat AT ALL (yes, it was that hot), and in keeping with my original tabbouleh craving, I decided to alter the recipe a bit.

First I shredded two carrots in the food processor and scooped them into a bowl.

Next I removed stems from half the bunch of the parsley and a few strands of dill, and threw that into the food processor with two pinches of whole coriander seeds, a scant teaspoon of chili garlic paste, a small clove of garlic, a glug of oil and a squeeze of lemon. A few pulses in the chopper turned this into a (cheeseless, nutless) herb pesto of sorts — one that would coat the carrots nicely.

I then took the remaining half bunch of parsley and another few strands of dill, quickly removed only the thickest part of the stems that I could easily cut off (because I like fiber and don’t particularly find anything offensive about parsley stems in an already crunchy dish — and also because I am lazy), and gave them a rough chop.

Into the bowl of carrots everything went, along with another squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt.

A quick stir and a crumble of feta later, all that stood between me and my lunch was a fork.

The verdict? Surprisingly delicious.

I say “surprisingly”, because I honestly hadn’t expected it to turn out all that well — partly because (confession!) I actually don’t like dill all that much, but mostly because I’d deviated fairly far off-course from the original recipe. While that works out really well sometimes, other times it doesn’t… but in this case there were enough other more important factors to consider (the heat, my hunger) that I decided to throw caution to the wind.

Boy am I glad I did. I literally said “wow” out loud (to no one but myself) two or three times in the course of devouring my bowl.

I won’t say it’s better than the original, partly since I’ve never had the original (which I look forward to making soon), and partly because I suspect it isn’t true — mint is pretty magical stuff. Especially on a 90-degree June afternoon. But it was healthy, easy, fast, and “wow”-worthy, which definitely constitutes success in my book.

Lesson to be learned: sometimes it’s worth living dangerously with your herbs. You never know where they’ll take you.


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