A month or so ago I watched Padma Lakshmi prepare this salad on Instagram. My mouth watered as she put the salad together and I knew it was something Brett and I would love. However, it did require a couple of special ingredients I knew would be difficult, if not impossible, to locate on Kaua’i, and a quick check of Amazon’s prices showed they would not be inexpensive. I have a bad memory of giving away or throwing out so many special ingredients and spices that I had ordered or bought when we lived here before but then rarely used, and I really did not want to go down that path again. I knew I could make the salad without the two special ingredients – orange oil and za’atar – but she had stressed in her video that they really made a difference.
Fast forward to my birthday in May, and I received an Amazon gift card from my son. I spent part of it on a new pair of earrings, but had enough left over that I decided this was my chance to purchase the orange oil and za’atar. I searched Amazon again and found two affordable choices, and a few days later they were in my possession!
This is honestly one of the best dishes I have made in a long time. I cut the recipe in half for the two of us, but Brett and I could have finished off the regular recipe on our own in one sitting . . . it was that good. The recipe comes from Padma’s Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet cookbook and this salad is all that and more. And the orange oil and za’atar were worth the expense; in fact, I would say the orange oil may be the salad’s key ingredient. We could taste the orange flavor in every bite, even with the tiny bit that’s used and up against all the other flavors. It was the same with the za’atar, and the jalapeño also added a necessary kick without overpowering anything else. The whole salad goes together very quickly too, with the most difficult part of making it the task of grating the carrots. A food processor would have made that task go quickly, but alas, I no longer have a food processor.
The recipe below is for the full, big salad, which makes enough for six generous portions. Cutting it in half made more than enough for the two of us. The salad would makes a wonderful side dish for grilled chicken or fish, but was a great part of a meatless meal for us. We used leftovers on sandwiches a couple of days later and it was still very yummy.
CARROT & CILANTRO SALAD
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 2 TBSP lime juice
- 1/4 tsp food-grade orange oil
- 2 pounds carrots, peeled and grated
- 2 1/2 cups fresh cilantro leaves (don’t chop)
- 1/4 cup lightly toasted white sesame seeds
- 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely diced
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 tsp za’atar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
In a large salad bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
Add the grated carrot, cilantro leaves, toasted sesame seeds, jalapeños, and cranberries and toss together.
Sprinkle the za’atar and salt over the salad just before serving.
Refrigerate the salad if not serving immediately. It’s best served same day but the dressing will start pickling the salad after that, which is fine but the taste will be slightly different.