Carrot Salad with Spicy Lemon Dressing


I went to Cyprus last week and spent it with my family. It happened to be both my sister’s birthday and mine, the first time I was there to celebrate my birthday with them since I left 26 years ago. Unlike here in the U.S., when it’s your birthday in Cyprus you are the one who treats people to drinks or dinner. So my sister and I took everyone out to their favorite restaurant, a Syrian restaurant, where the waiters all have stories of their families back home, or what is left of it. It’s hard to reconcile the delicious salads and dips they place in front of you with the place of death and destruction they come from.

It also happened to be Greek Orthodox Easter week while I was there. It’s a different kind of celebration in Cyprus, less commercial than in the U.S. (there’s no Easter bunny or bonnets to be found), more traditional and somewhat religious. At midnight on Saturday, people go to church to hear the “good news” and receive the “holy light” on their candles, to bring it back and bless their home. Groups of young men explode fireworks (every year some lose fingers, hands, or lives) and light up a huge bonfire behind the church “to burn Judas”, though no effigy is ever burned. On Friday, the day before, my parents got an alert from the home security company that outdoor furniture was being stolen from homes, to be used on Saturday night’s bonfires. As I said, somewhat religious.

My youngest niece decided that her favorite game was to fake-face paint each other, with dry brushes, describing each step so that we could visualize it. Now I’m painting your face green, since you are a frog. And now I’m drawing two big eyes with my brush. We played for hours until I collapsed. She could have gone for a few hours more. My oldest niece, a teenager, showed me the music she listens to and I recognized about 1% of it. She told me that she’d like me to be cooler. I said I’d try.

Carrot Salad with Spicy Lemon Dressing – Slightly adapted from The Bitten Word


1 tbsp harissa
1/6 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 lb carrots, grated on large teardrop holes or coarsely shredded in a food processor
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 oz feta, crumbled


In a small bowl, whisk the harissa with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and whisk again.

In a large bowl, add the carrots and raisins, and pour the harissa dressing on top. Toss well.

Sprinkle parsley and feta on top and serve at room temperature.

Mina Harissa

This week we are on vacation in Italy with a group of friends. We rented a house in Tuscany and are living the country life, Italian style. I wish I could report many amazing meals, but in our three days here we’ve had only two good meals. One was cooked by the Italian cook who cooks for the house we rented and the other one was at a restaurant in Siena. The others have been so-so to downright bland. But we have several days to go so hopefully our luck will improve.


No recipe today either. Instead, I have harissa. Harissa is a condiment commonly seen in North African countries like Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. It’s usually a mixture of peppers (almost always hot), garlic, spices, and oil, ground into a paste. I’ve tried several brands of harissa, especially in France, where moroccan and tunisian food is very common. They all tended to be thick pastes with concentrated, pungent flavor. It wasn’t until I happened to find Mina harissa in New York, however, that I found one I absolutely loved.


Unlike much of the other harissas I tried, which were canned or available in a tube, this one is in a jar and can be refrigerated for a long time once opened. It’s not too spicy (there’s even a sweet version) and it tastes of fresh peppers and garlic. Its bright red color is matched by its bright flavor. We love it on its own or mixed with some olive oil and lemon juice to create a spicy dressing for meat or fish. I’ve also mixed a teaspoon of it with a tablespoon of softened butter and put a pat of that on top of steaks.

I bought Mina in two specialty food stores in the New York area but you can also buy it at Crate and Barrel or online at Amazon.