Moroccan Carrot Salad on a Labneh Toast

        From the blog For Love of the Table

The Carrots:

Trim and peel the carrots.  Cut the carrots on a diagonal about 1/3-inch thick.  Cut the slices in two or three pieces length-wise.  Your carrots pieces should look about like a piece of penne pasta.  Toss the carrots with olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper.  Place the carrots in a baking dish that is just large enough to hold them in a snug single layer. Add a splash of water (just enough to barely film the bottom of the pan).  Cover the pan tightly with foil and place in a 375° to 400° oven.  After 20 minutes, uncover the pan and give the carrots a stir.  Return the pan (uncovered) to the oven and continue to cook until the carrots are tender to the tip of a knife—10 to 20 minutes more.  Add a bit of harissa and toss to coat.  Serve hot or room temperature.  You can add as much or as little harissa as you like.  For me, a heaped tablespoon per pound (pre-trim weight) of carrots is about right.  A pound of carrots will make enough carrots for 4 or 5 servings of Moroccan Carrot Salad Toast.

 

The Toast:

For each toast, you’ll need a thick (about 3/4-inch) slice of a hearty artisanal-style bread.  Something wide is best.  If your loaf is narrow, maybe cut a slice on a diagonal.  Put a cast iron pan over a moderately high heat.  Spread both sides of the bread generously with soft butter.  Place the bread in the skillet.  You should hear a quiet sizzle.  Cover the pan with a lid.  (The lid for my cast iron skillet does not fit tightly, so you may find that you may need to put a tight fitting lid on so that it is slightly ajar.  Or perhaps not.  It’s hard to say.  If you find your bread is too soft when covered tightly—leave the lid ajar…if it is too crunchy when the lid is ajar—cover it tightly.  You should make it work for you.)  After about a minute, check the bread—if it looks dry, add a bit of butter to the pan…if it’s cooking too quickly (burning in spots) lower the heat.  Adjust the position of the bread if you pan/burner has hot/cold spots.  After about 2 minutes, the bread should be golden and crisp.  Flip it over and cook it the same way (covered) on the second side.

 

Labneh:

Labneh is yogurt cheese.  You can purchase it…or make your own.  I like to make my own with homemade whole milk yogurt (you can make it with purchased yogurt too).  Whisk 3/4 t. kosher salt into a quart of yogurt.  Line a strainer suspended over a bowl with some cheesecloth.  Scrape the yogurt into the cheesecloth and let drain.  The longer it drains, the thicker it will be.  I usually let it drain for 48 hours (and since I don’t want my strainer out of commission for that long, I gather the ends of the cheesecloth together and tie them in a knot and then slide a wooden spoon through the loop and suspend the bundle over a bowl and let it drain that way.)  But labneh comes in all kinds of textures.  It can be fairly soft (the texture of Greek yogurt)…or very thick (the texture of fresh goat cheese).  The longer it drains, the thicker it will be.  If you only let it drain for 6 hours or so, it will be soft.  Sometimes, I will make just a small “quick” amount (not even bothering to salt it and letting it drain for only an hour or two) if I want something soft and tangy to dollop on a grain salad.  For the toasts, I like the really thick stuff (48 hours)…and I have been in the habit of keeping a jar of it in my fridge.  It will keep for about a month.  You can also use the whey that drains off…for baking, cooking, etc.   A quick internet search will yield a multitude of uses.  A quart of yogurt will make about a cup and a half of thick labneh. 

 

The Vinaigrette:

Place 2 T. finely diced shallots in a small bowl and cover with 2 T. Sherry vinegar. Add a good pinch of salt and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes (or longer) so the shallots can soften.  Add 6 T. olive oil in a thin stream while whisking constantly.  Taste and correct the seasoning with salt & pepper.  Add more vinegar or olive oil to balance.  The dressing should be tangy.

 

The Salad (one serving):

1 slice of skillet fried bread

3 to 4 T. (or more, to taste) thick labneh

1 handful fine baby lettuces (arugula and claytonia, all arugula, baby lettuces, etc—whatever you can find that is flavorful and perky), washed and spun dry

1 serving harissa-spiced carrots (see above)

2 large Medjool dates, halved, pitted and each half cut into four lengthwise strips

2 T. lightly toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped

A spoonful or two of sherry vinaigrette

Salt & pepper

 

While the toast cooks, place the greens in a bowl with the carrots, dates, and pistachios.   Smear a generous quantity of labneh on the toast and place on a plate. 

 

Season the salad with salt and pepper and drizzle sparingly with the vinaigrette.  Toss carefully and gently to coat the greens.  Add more vinaigrette if the salad seems dry…but don’t add too much, the small tender greens can become soggy very quickly. 

 

Mound the salad on top of the toast, allowing some of the cheese covered toast to show and allowing the salad to spill over onto the plate.  Drizzle everything with more vinaigrette and serve with a knife and fork.  Serves 1


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