I love the little jar of harissa in my fridge. It cheers me up just looking at it. I love the orangey-red contents even more. Harissa is a Tunisian chili sauce made from piri piri peppers, coriander, garlic paste and caraway seeds. It was one of the first things I bought after I got back from Ireland this spring, where I had eaten it slathered on grilled sardines.
I have been smearing it on all kinds of grilled meat, vegetables and egg sandwiches. So last week I went looking for a raw salad that incorporates this fragrant paste and came across this one on Food52’s website. I was intrigued by the combination of harissa with turnip-like kohlrabi, salty feta, fennel seed, sweet carrots and bright lemon juice.
In my own version, I bumped up the feta amount and added finely chopped scallion for a little oniony bite.
Note: In case you aren’t familiar with kohlrabi, it’s a weird looking member of the cabbage family that tastes like a cross between a turnip, radish and cabbage. If you can’t find it, you can substitute with small turnips or daikon radish.
Kohlrabi and carrot salad with harissa and mint
1 medium kohlrabi
Juice of 1 lemon, divided
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon harissa (or more if desired)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 large scallion, finely chopped
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper, to taste
Method: With a paring knife, generously peel away the rough skin of the kohlrabi, cutting away any woody bits.
Cut the remaining white root into thin slices. Then stack the slices, square off the ends and cut into roughly 2-inch matchsticks. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect, unless of course you’re preparing this salad for a chef. Toss the kohlrabi sticks in half of the lemon juice to prevent them from discoloring. Cut the carrot into similar matchsticks.
Toast the fennel seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Crush them with a mortar and pestle or place them in a sturdy plastic bag and pound several times with a heavy skillet.
In a small bowl, whisk together the rest of the lemon juice, along with harissa, crushed fennel seeds and sugar. Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Taste and season with salt, pepper, additional harissa or sugar, depending on your taste.
Add the kohlrabi and carrots to the harissa dressing. Fold in the mint leaves, scallion and feta. Check the seasoning and adjust as needed.
Serves 3-4 as a bright side salad.