Honey and dates sweeten carrots for Rosh Hashana

Matthew Mead/Associated Press
Grated Carrot Salad with Dates and Pistachios served in a glass.

Photo by Matthew Mead

Matthew Mead/Associated Press Grated Carrot Salad with Dates and Pistachios served in a glass.

In this image taken on July 30, a Grated Carrot Salad with Dates and Pistachios is served on a plate as shown in Concord, N.H. Matthew Mead/ Associated Press

Photo by Matthew Mead

In this image taken on July 30, a Grated Carrot Salad with Dates and Pistachios is served on a plate as shown in Concord, N.H. Matthew Mead/ Associated Press

Silver Plume Productions/Natalie Gustafson/Associated Press
Sara Moulton on the set of her PBS show, "Sara's Weeknight Meals."

Photo by Natalie Gustafson

Silver Plume Productions/Natalie Gustafson/Associated Press Sara Moulton on the set of her PBS show, "Sara's Weeknight Meals."

That's why this salad is based on a sweet vegetable — the carrot — and flavored with honey and dates. But you don't have to celebrate Rosh Hashana to love this recipe. Refreshing and simple to prepare, it's a great and healthy end-of-summer treat no matter what your faith.

Technique-wise, I borrowed a trick I learned for beets: I grate them.

For years, I hated beets. To me, they tasted like dirt. And the little devils start out hard as rocks, so hard you have to boil them for an hour before you can even think about cutting into them. One day it occurred to me that I might be able to make beets more user-friendly by running them through the grating disk of a food processor.

Much as I love my chef's knife, I am not ashamed to reach for a more complex piece of equipment if it will make my life easier. So I peeled and grated some beets using the processor. And guess how long it then took me to saute them in a large skillet? Three minutes. My beet-loving husband was ecstatic, and I felt like a whole new world had opened up.

I started rummaging through the fridge and cupboard in search of additional candidates for the grater. The carrot was a natural. I grated a bunch, flavored it with hot pepper flakes and lime, then cooked it all in a large skillet coated with vegetable oil, just as I had the beets. Sure enough, 3 minutes later they were done. And delicious. Cooked shredded carrots quickly shouldered their way into our weeknight dinner rotation.

And it turns out shredded carrots are wonderful raw, too, especially in a salad. All they needed was some Middle Eastern flavoring — paprika and cumin and a spritz of lemon to balance their natural sweetness. Enhancing this basic line-up with a little honey and some chopped dates makes it a salad wonderfully fit for Rosh Hashana.

Paprika, by the way, is one of my favorite ingredients these days. In this recipe, I used a mix of hot smoked and sweet Hungarian. Who'd have thought that the bright red powder my mom used to sprinkle on hard-boiled eggs and potato salad just for looks one day would become the sweetheart of cutting-edge American chefs?

As for the dates, I have a couple of tricks for dealing with their annoying stickiness, which makes them a pain to chop. If you spritz your knife with cooking spray before you start, you shouldn't have any trouble.

And when it comes time to mix the finished salad, use your impeccably clean hands, rather than salad spoons, to make sure the dates are happily dispersed throughout the salad rather than clumped together in a sullen bunch. I will admit that I was a little worried about serving this salad to my husband because he usually does not like sweet mixed with his savory. But all the balancing ingredients must have worked. He loved it.

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