carrot + harissa dip

This recipe was inspired by a dip I had at a Mediterranean restaurant in L.A. called Cleo. I once worked at a Mediterranean restaurant where I had 4 shifts a week and was fed twice a day so you can imagine the amount of hummus, baba ganoush and falafel I ate. Because of this, I stay away from ordering these three when dining out (unless they promise a super smoky baba ganoush).  Cleo’s carrot dip was the perfect alternative to the typical dips. I know it may sound like a no-brainer but a) I’m a sucker for anything that has harissa in it. I don’t even bother to stop and think if the item is really worth getting and b) this was actually the first time I’d seen the two ingredients combined. I’d have to say this was one of my favorite things that night, besides the tamarind margaritas we had at Loteria hours before.

What is harissa? Harissa is a hot chili paste made of dried and smoked chili peppers, garlic paste, spices and oil. It is a standard ingredient in North African cuisine, mainly in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. As you can imagine the recipe varies from region to region, but for the most part it’s a chili-garlic paste used to flavor stews, couscous and meats. Whole Foods has a nice recipe on their site. You can also find it in stores in a tube or a can. I’ve tried the packaged kind and I find that they are too tomato-y for my taste. If you don’t want to make your own, I’d suggest trying to buy some from your favorite Mediterranean restaurant if they dare part with it! So far my favorite harissa in New York is from Cafe Orlin. I add it to my eggs, squid salad, pasta and vegetarian platter of course.

add a flurry of za'atar for an extra tang

carrot + harissa dip


1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed

2 tablespoons harissa paste

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon tahini

1 teaspoon salt

1 garlic clove, minced (optional)*

olive oil for drizzling

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cut carrots in half and add to water. Cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and remove to a food processor. Add harissa, lemon, tahini, salt and garlic if using; puree until smooth adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of water if necessary. Refrigerate until cold and serve drizzled with olive oil over crackers, pita chips or crostini.

*I have left the garlic optional because it really depends on the harissa you use, some are more garlicky than others. I used a jarred one from Les Moulins Mahjour I got at Dean & Deluca and I found it quite mild. If I’d used the paste from Cafe Orlin, I would’ve only needed about 1/2 teaspoon of harissa and no extra garlic.


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