Last week I made a middle eastern mess themed dinner with lots of small dishes. My friend Ansell was coming over, back when we met he introduced me to the Cafe Mogador in the East Village (been there since 1983 and still going strong). They used to have a large silver appetizer platter filled with small bowls of tabbouleh, spiced carrots, hummus, warm pita and many other delicious that they would bring to the table for you to choose from. It’s been years now since but I always remember thinking how reasonably priced they were, how delicious everything on the tray was and how you could easily make a dinner just from the small plates on this tray.
One of my favorite things on this mezzo tray were the spiced carrots. We got them every time we went. So when I was putting together this mezze meal I knew I had to make spiced carrots.
In Ottolenghi‘s instant classic cook book Jerusalem his recipe for spicy carrot salad calls for Pilpelchuma as a key ingredient. Pilpel… what, you ask? Pilpelchuma is:
An intense chile-and-garlic paste that is used by Jews from Tripoli as a basic seasoning for many dishes.
My guests will attest to the fact that it tastes great on basically everything from Olives, to the small pastries filled with feta, herbs and spinach I made and of course spicy carrots: basically it is kind of like Harissa with a lot of garlic in it.
Here’s the recipe, I promise to post the my version of the spicy carrot salad recipe post-haste!
Place 1 large ancho or pasilla chile in a small bowel, cover with very hot water, and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and seed the chile, roughly chop and reserve.
In a cast iron frying pan add: 4 1/2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper, 3 1/2 tablespoons of sweet paprika, 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground caraway seeds. Roast over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, until the spice mixture become fragrant.
In a blender or food processor add: the chopped chile, 20 cloves of garlic, a scant teaspoon of salt. Process adding 1 tablespoon of unflavored oil like sunflower or organic canola. Once the garlic and chili has formed a rustic paste add the ground spices. With the blender running adding 4 more tablespoon of oil. You may need more if using a blender.
Sterilize a jar by pouring boiling hot water into it and letting it sit for 1 minute, place the lid to the jar in the pan with the water as you bring it up to boil.
Spoon the paste into the jar and top it with more oil so the paste doesn’t dry out.
Use it freely and often and make Spicy Carrot Salad.