Home Cooking: Carrot & Cilantro Salad

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

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TBSP lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp food-grade orange oil

Salad:

  • 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.

12 thoughts on “Home Cooking: Carrot & Cilantro Salad

    1. I used the orange oil the other day when I made pancakes – they were delicious with that little zing of orange. The oil is apparently pretty powerful, and a little goes a long way. It completely makes this salad – I hope to make it again next week (I cut the recipe in half though, and even then it made a lot. But, the leftovers are good).

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  1. I’m so glad you were able to make this salad. (and that is was as good as you hoped!) I love trying new recipes especially ones that are have a lot of ingredients I know I’ll like but there is a twist to it. I’m going to keep my eye out for the orange oil. I already have za’tar seasoning so that’s the oil is the only thing I’m missing.

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    1. This salad is SO GOOD! I bought the orange oil through Amazon – found a bottle for less than $7, and it will last for a while as so little is needed for the orange flavor to shine. Be sure to make sure whatever oil you buy is food grade (and not for polishing furniture!).

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  2. I think I would just finely grate a little orange peel, instead of buying orange oil. It’s cheap and surprisingly good in many things. Or the Mexican food store around here have powdered dried orange peel. I’ll have to look up the other thing- never heard of it! Thanks as always for broadening my horizons.

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    1. The orange oil provides a very different flavor than grated peel, really a bright burst of orange flavor. I was surprised how clearly the orange came through in the salad (in a good way), even with the lime juice and other things. Orange peel is a bit more bitter and wouldn’t provide the same flavor. I use dried orange peel though – it’s a great ingredient to keep on hand.

      I found this small jar of the oil on Amazon for $6.99, and am finding other ways to use it (like in pancake batter, which was yummy).

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  3. This looks delicious. I will see if I can find orange oil locally. And I’m guessing it would be great in other things. I did buy za’atar at a local Mediterranean store a couple years back for another recipe. It wasn’t that expensive, as I recall, but the smallest container was HUGE. Really added a great flavor to the salad recipe I had, though.

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      1. Thanks! I’ve bookmarked the site. I just saw a picture of Bill and Hillary Clinton this morning and he looked fabulous (so did she, wearing a beautiful caftan).

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    1. I have been using the za’atar in other recipes and like it. I am also loving the orange oil – a little goes a long way – and am close to considering it a staple in my pantry, mainly because I love the flavor of oranges and this is so bright and pure. I was very surprised by how cleanly the orange flavor came through the salad, even the tiny bit I added. The salad is a winner – can’t wait to make it again!

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