Me and this salad go way back. In 2007 — you know, back in the days when I imagine that all of our conversations might have gone “What should we do today?” “Oh, I don’t know, anything we want.” — I had this salad at the then new-ish Spotted Pig in the West Village and attempted to recreate it. It didn’t go well and because I was as mature then as I am now, I had a tantrum and didn’t get back to it until 2009, at which point I made a roasted carrot dish with a bit of cumin and topped it with avocado slices that had been tossed with some lemon and everyone was happy. However, in 2011, Jean-Georges Vongerichten published a book of his homecooking favorites including this salad, which is also on the menu at ABC Kitchen and in 2012, April Bloomfield included the recipe in her first cookbook and I’ve thought it might be nice to circle back to these more complexly spiced and textured versions.
Can I veer off for a moment here? [I mean, that’s kind of my thing, not being able to finish a sentence without at least one other tangentially-related sentence inside it.] Okay, so I get a lot of cooking ideas from restaurants I go to and I jot them down but it’s not because I want to do anything sinister like pretend I came up with them first, but because I want to do something with the impression it made on me. It’s like going to a museum and admiring the soft colors in a painting and realizing you want to soften the palette in your own artwork; nobody is going to mistake you for Monet any more than anyone is going to mistake me for Beyoncé if I buy thigh-high tights and wear them as pants. (They’re more likely, in fact, beg me to never do this again.) People have said to me, “Why don’t you just ask the chef for their recipe?” or “But this recipe is published! Don’t you want to make their version?” but I actually don’t for two reasons. First, I want to stay true to what I remembered about it, even if it might have been incorrect, because it was my impression that got me daydreaming about a new flavor combination or approach to an ingredient. Second, holy moly, are chef recipes usually a headache! For restaurant purposes, this makes a ton of sense (each element prepared separately before service so it can be assembled and cooked to order) but to cook like this at home — at dinnertime no less, when everyone is hungry — is madness and a short path to being so exhausted you might need a week of takeout to recover.
Which begs the question: why make a new, more complicated version of something we were happy with to begin with? In this case it’s because every time I’ve been back to a restaurant that served it, I’ve fallen again in love with how nuanced it is. Plus, I now see its potential to be a rounded meal by making it less restaurant-style (precious and plated) and more homestyle, in a way we’d all want to dig into on a weekday night. In fact, I hope this is your dinner tonight.
One year ago: Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake
Two years ago: Five (Different) Egg Sandwiches
Three years ago: Japanese Vegetable Pancakes
Four years ago: Chocolate Buckwheat Cake
Five years ago: Vemontucky Lemonade
Six years ago: Spring Asparagus Pancetta Hash
Seven years ago: Cinnamon Raisin Bagels and Endive and Celery Salad with Fennel Vinaigrette
Eight years ago: Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
Nine years ago: Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Pecan Pie
1.5 Years Ago: Pretzel Parker House Rolls
2.5 Years Ago: Cranberry Orange Breakfast Buns
3.5 Years Ago: Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
4.5 Years Ago: Baked Pumpkin and Sour Cream Puddings
Spiced Roasted Carrots with Avocado and Yogurt
- On origin: As I mentioned, this recipe has made the rounds at big-name restaurants and from big-name chefs. (Jamie Oliver, who I think was once a silent partner at Spotted Pig, also has a version. Also, if anyone who follows restaurants obsessively wants to tell me how it made the jump from the Jean-Georges to the Spotted Pig camp, I’m curious!) Everyone agrees on 90% of the ingredients — carrots, avocado, sour cream, something crunchy, cumin and citrus — but nobody agrees on how to cook the carrots and other smaller details. This version: Is all and none of the above; you’ll use yogurt instead of sour cream and there will be no segmenting of oranges on a Tuesday night. That’s a rule. Almost everything comes together on one big messy tray of dinner — sheet pans 4eva!
- Finally, I was champing at the bit to make a spring-ier riff on this with asparagus instead of carrots (but my carrot-loving husband begged to differ). Don’t you think asparagus would be amazing with cumin, coriander, thyme and citrus? With asparagus, everything will go much faster as you’ll probably have it nicely roasted in the 15 to 25 minute range, no foil lid or water in the pan needed. Do it!
I made about a 2/3 to 3/4 size of this on a 10×15 tray but you should use a full half-sheet pan (13×18) or two quarter-sheet (9×13) pans for the yield below.
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and cooled if you have the patience, ground will work here as well
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and cooled if you have the patience, ground will work here as well
- 2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Red chile flakes, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 pounds thin-to-medium carrots, scrubbed, not peeled; mixed colors are prettier here but not essential
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons orange juice (from about 1/4 orange)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
- 1 large or 2 medium firm-ripe avocados, cut in thin slices
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 to 2 cups radish sprouts, other sprouts or light salad greens of your choice
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons roasted hulled pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, toasted sesame seeds or a mix thereof
For the carrots
Make your spice paste by either pounding the cumin, coriander, thyme, salt and peppers in a mortar and pestle until roughly ground, using an electric spice grinder (i.e. a coffee grinder you don’t mind smelling like spices) or small food processor to do the same, or, if using ground spices, just combining them in the bottom of the large bowl you’re about to use. In the bottom of a very large bowl, combine prepared spices, salt and pepper, garlic, vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil and whisk to blend. Add carrots and toss to coat.
Spread carrots, drizzling with any extra marinade, in prepared pans and cover tightly with foil. Roast for 25 minutes covered then remove the foil and roast for 35 minutes more, until the carrots are lightly browned and tender but not falling apart.
Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, orange and lemon juices in a small dish with salt and pepper. When carrots are done, scatter with avocado and sprouts then drizzle with this citrus dressing all over. Dollop yogurt over the top and sprinkle with seeds. Dig in.