Welcome back to mezze & tapas. This post is about a favorite of mine, the roasted carrot and chickpea salad. There are many reasons that I love Mediterranean food. This salad is a perfect example of one of those reasons. I love how such simple ingredients can make such great, enticing and complex food.
The carrot’s roasted spices and the pomegranate tanginess are a perfect complement. The arugula’s peppery bite is offset by the sweetness of the dried fruits. And of course the salad has chickpeas, one of my favorite foods.
The inspiration to make this salad comes from several places. First, the Elegant Baker and I were having lamb chops for dinner recently. The original plan had been lamb koftas, but I wasn’t able to find any ground lamb. I did find lamb chops, which are kind of like a mini porterhouse steak of lamb meat. I wanted to cook the lamb with a Moroccan inspiration, and so decided on a chickpea salad as a side, as I have done before.
The second inspiration was my rediscovery of pomegranate molasses. I had forgotten how much I like the way it adds flavor. Last week’s post about pomegranate glazed koftas refreshed my memory. I like how using a little bit of pomegranate molasses can add a pleasing touch to food.
Let’s talk about the different parts to the Roasted Carrot and Chickpea Salad. The beauty here is the basic simplicity of each of the ingredients. With just a bit of care it is easy to turn the ordinary into the wonderfully complex. Carrots, a spice blend, chickpeas, dried fruits, almonds and arugula. That’s it. Topped with a pomegranate molasses dressing.
For roasting the carrots, there are a couple of options. The first is to roast them whole and then cut them into bite sized pieces after cooking. Alternatively, you can cut the carrots and then roast them. I prefer the second method. It helps ensure that you coat the entire piece of carrot in the spice blend. Also, the smaller pieces cook more evenly and a bit quicker than a whole carrot.
After peeling the carrots, I cut them into about one inch pieces, and I cut on the bias. This makes the carrots look a little bit prettier in the finished salad. If you are uncomfortable cutting on a diagonal, cut them straight. They will taste just as good. Place the cut carrots in a medium sized bowl, and some olive oil and your spices. Toss them to coat evenly, then spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 25 – 35 minutes.
One of my favorite things about the roasted carrot and chickpea is the complexity of its flavor. This is due in no small part to the combination of spices used when roasting the carrots. The spices used are ground coriander, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, paprika and cloves.
When blended they create a flavor evocative of the popular Moroccan blend Ras El Hanout. This blend is what helps to make this whole salad a complex array of flavors. If you want to, you can roast the carrots with simple salt and pepper. Maybe some garlic and paprika. What you will get will be fine. But I recommend that you don’t take that shortcut, and take the few minutes needed to make the blend called for here. It is that extra step that will take this salad from nice to amazing!
Finish the Carrots
The key to knowing when the carrots are done is to get to a point where they are softened and tender without being mushy or burnt. I used a small cake tester to check my carrots. When the tester slides in easily without any resistance, the carrots are done. Pull them from the oven and let cool.
Use the time the carrots are cooking and cooling to work on the other ingredients. We’ve covered my love of chickpeas before, so it is no surprise they make an appearance here. One of the oldest recorded foods, eaten in the Mediterranean for thousands of years. They have lasted so long because they are so good, versatile and good for you. For this salad, I used canned chickpeas, which I don’t often do. However, in this salad they help to keep it quick and simple. If you would rather use dried chickpeas, you can follow my guide for how to cook them first.
What about dried fruits for the roasted carrot and chickpea salad? I used a combination of dried apricots and golden raisins. Both fruits have a sweetness that is complementary to the complete salad. I like dried apricots in particular because of their tangy sweet flavor. This creates a nice “bridge” between the pomegranate’s tanginess and carrot’s sweetness.
It is also true that I chose these two fruits for their yellow/orange hues. I find they add an eye appeal to the salad. You could use any dried fruit that you would like though. Feel free to substitute in dates, dried cherries or currants. Be sure to cut the larger fruits into smaller pieces (about the size of a raisin.)
The almonds add a satisfying crunch and bite. Take a couple of minutes to dry roast them first. It adds a subtle earthy flavor to the roasted carrot and chickpea salad. The easiest way to dry roast them for this salad is to put them on the baking sheet with the carrots.
Don’t put the almonds there when you first put the carrots in the oven. Add them to the sheet pan for the last five minute of the carrots roasting. This should be long enough to help toast the almonds without burning them. If you want to do that, leave about two inches at one edge of the sheet pan when you are putting the carrots on it. That way there is space for the almonds when you add them for the final five minutes.
You can use any type of green that you like for this salad. I used arugula because I like its peppery bitterness. But mixed greens, baby spinach, watercress or beet greens would all be good choices in this salad. It is hard to go wrong. The rest of the salad delivers such a flavor kick that the greens are just a supporting player here. Use what is easy to get or that you have on hand.
Finally, the pomegranate dressing. This is quite easy to make and you can use it on many other salads. I didn’t need to make a lot for this one salad, so the ingredients scale is small. You can make a larger batch if you’d like. Store in the refrigerator and use it in all kinds of places.
Start with three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add two tablespoons of pomegranate molasses, and a teaspoon each of honey and lemon juice. Add a pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Whisk it all together and drizzle over the finished salad. .
Each element of roasted carrot and chickpea salad is simple and easy to find. Taken together, they create a Moroccan inspired flavor that is hard to match. This complex from the simple is a hallmark of Mediterranean food. I know that if you try the roasted carrot and chickpea salad, you will see what I mean.
Roasted Carrot and Chickpea Salad
- 12 oz Carrots peeled
- 2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 tsp Coriander seed ground
- 1/2 tsp Ginger ground
- 1/2 tsp Cumin ground
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon ground
- 1/4 tsp Paprika
- pinch Cloves ground
- 1 15 oz can Chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 8 Dried apricots quartered
- 2 TBS Golden raisins
- 2 TBS Slivered almonds
- 1 cup Baby arugula
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TBS pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
Roast Carrots and Combine Dried Fruits
- Preheat oven to 350oF
- Cut the carrots diagonally into 1" pieces and place in a large bowl
- Combine ground coriander, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and cloves and whisk together well
- Toss the carrots with 2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 to 3/4 of the spice blend (depending on how strong you want the spices flavor)
- Spread carrots in a single layer on a sheet pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray
- Roast the carrots in the oven for 25 – 35 minutes until tender and a tester slides in easily
- While the carrots are cooking combine the chickpeas, apricots, raisins and almond slices in large bowl
- When the carrots are done, remove from oven and allow to cool
Make the Dressing
- Combine 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl or salad cruet.
- Shake/whisk vigorously to combine
- Add carrots and arugula to the mixture of chickpeas, apricots, raisins and almonds
- Toss to fully combine
- Gently drizzle Pomegranate Dressing over the salad
- Serve and Enjoy!