Last summer, while Bryan and I were in Massachusetts, we had one of the best meals of our lives at Oleana, Ana Sortun’s Eastern-Mediterranean inspired restaurant. it was as close to perfect as I have experienced. The restaurant was recommended to me by several readers who sold me when they pointed out that the kitchen is almost entirely female staffed.
On a perfect summer night we sat in the beautiful garden and enjoyed some crazy delicious food. It is a bit of a happy blur, but I remember it feeling like a perfect evening: grilled peaches, lamb, haloumi, a chickpea terrine, plenty of wine. I love Chicago, and wouldn’t trade our restaurants for any other, but I admit that I am jealous of Cambridge for having Oleana. We don’t have anything like it here and I desperately wish we did.
The meal started off with a plate of bread accompanied by a carrot puree, olive oil, and a small bowl of dukkah (Sortun’s take on the Egyptian spice mix). It was a favorite. I bought Spice, Sortun’s cookbook that night and was very excited to see the recipes for that first course were included. I was even happier to learn they are perfectly duplicated at home. The carrot puree is bright and spicy and I could (and do!) eat it by the spoonful. The Dukkah is just right and we love dipping a hunk of break in olive oil and then dukkah to coat it in savory spices before spreading it with carrots. These are a couple of year-round snacks that I will return to again and again. Of course, it isn’t quite the same without the perfect summer night and beautiful Oleana, but it will have to do until we make our way back east.
Carrot Puree (adapted from Ana Sortun’s Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean)
- 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for dipping
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 5 teaspoons harissa
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- Kosher Salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan over high heat, cover the carrots with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the carrots and return them to the dry saucepan. Cook the carrots for 30 seconds or so over medium heat dry them out. Remove the pan with the carrots from the heat and coarsely mash them with a fork or whisk. You want a coarsely ground carrot puree, not a smooth puree.
Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, harissa, cumin and ginger and then season the mixture with salt and pepper.
Dukkah (adapted slightly from Ana Sortun’s Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean)
- 1/2 cup blanched almonds
- 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a medium skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a work surface to cool, and then finely chop them.
Put the coriander and cumin seeds in the same skillet and toast, stirring until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a spice grinder and allow them to cool completely before coarsely grinding.
In a medium bowl, combine the almonds with the ground spices.
Put the sesame seeds in the same skillet and toast them over medium heat, stirring until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the spice grinder.
Toast the coconut in the skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden (be careful not to burn!), about 2 minutes. Add the toasted coconut to the grinder and let it cool completely.
Grind the sesame seeds and coconut to a coarse powder. Combine with the almond and spice mixture and season with salt and pepper.
March 22nd, 2012 at 8:47 am
My husband and I had dukkah for the first time early this year. Love it! Such a great snack or meal rounded out with some cheese, olives and dried fruit.
Colleen @ Culinary Colleen says:
March 22nd, 2012 at 9:29 am
What an interesting appetizer! I live in the Cambridge area, so it sounds like I need to try Oleana ASAP…
March 22nd, 2012 at 9:41 am
Oh, Colleen, go! Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
la domestique says:
March 22nd, 2012 at 9:42 am
What a gorgeous spread! Over the last year I’ve really fallen in love with Eastern Mediterranean flavors and can’t wait to check out Sortun’s book. Great post!
March 22nd, 2012 at 9:51 am
I was just at Oleana the other night! I read your blog regularly and was so tickled to see you post this recipe. We started our meal off with this very dish and I told myself that I need to make it at home. If you are ever back in the area you need to visit the “sister” bakery – SOFRA also in Cambridge – AMAZING!
March 22nd, 2012 at 9:51 am
Oleana is wonderful! I had the pleasure of dining there after Christmas ’10 while stuck in Boston due to a snowstorm. It was delicious. This carrot recipe looks like a must-make. Thanks!
March 22nd, 2012 at 10:11 am
I am loving Middle Eastern flavors right now… this looks awesome. I want an Oleana, too! Thanks for sharing Tim, I’m bookmarking this for later.
March 22nd, 2012 at 10:14 am
I’ve been trying to plan an exciting menu for a vegetarian friend and this looks like a perfect starter!
March 22nd, 2012 at 11:05 am
I love this sort of food and make carrot dip and home made flatbreads every now and then. So delicious yet so cheap to make. You have chosen a perfect way to start a meal here!
March 22nd, 2012 at 11:14 am
That looks delicious! I’m definitely trying it!
March 22nd, 2012 at 11:28 am
Our cooking stars must be aligned! Your last post for the sesame pear tea cake was the one recipe from last month’s Bon Appétit that really stood out to me, and then I left my copy on a plane! And now this… I was totally thinking about this recipe yesterday. I made a version with the dukkah blended in a while back: http://simmerboston.com/2010/03/spiced-carrot-spread-with-ginger-sesame-and-walnut/
Happy cooking, love your site!
cucee sprouts says:
March 22nd, 2012 at 2:13 pm
Do you serve the Carrots hot, warm or cold?
March 22nd, 2012 at 2:20 pm
Crazy delicious really is the best description of anything Ana Sortun creates. The whole cookbook is fantastic. Definitely check out the beet tzatziki when you have a chance.
March 22nd, 2012 at 2:26 pm
cucee- you can do whatever you like. at the restaurant they are room temperature, and that seems best to me, too. but I have eaten them both hot and cold, too.
March 22nd, 2012 at 2:45 pm
This looks so good. I’m eating carrots almost daily (it’s an odd addiction)…but I have to ask what kind of harissa do you recommend? Is it a powder or a paste? I tried a paste once but I think there’s better.
March 22nd, 2012 at 3:02 pm
Jeannette- good question. I had a hard time finding a prepared harissa that I liked. I finally did, it is by Le Cabanon http://www.amazon.com/Harissa-Sauce-Tube-Cabanon-150g/dp/B0019SA1MY It is great in dishes like this. If I am going to be using it as a condiment, I doctor it up with a little extra garlic and cumin and oil.
March 22nd, 2012 at 6:00 pm
Excellent, thanks Tim!
March 22nd, 2012 at 9:59 pm
Hi Tim, delurking here to say how much I love your blog, and how much this has made me want to sit on a terrace overlooking an emerald sea, eating carrot puree and dukkah and drinking pink wine. Instead I might have to break my cookbook buying armistace to add this to my collection. Cheers! Andrea
March 23rd, 2012 at 2:19 am
Yum, yum, yum! I love carrots! Often I eat it as snack. I should eat it cold or hot?
March 23rd, 2012 at 9:04 am
Okay, I think I now have to go to Oleana. I’ve heard rave reviews and I live a 10 minute walk away. (I still miss Chicago and am jealous that you get to live there.)
March 23rd, 2012 at 9:29 am
i kinda want to leave the skins on because i’ve read that the skin (or just under the skin) has mucho nutritional value. but hey, i hardly ever peel root vegetables. since it’s mashed, it seems like it wouldn’t affect the appearance. can’t i leave the skins on? whine whine
March 23rd, 2012 at 9:31 am
yes TG! Leave them on, you rebel.
March 23rd, 2012 at 3:35 pm
Looks wonderful, is this the type of thing that tastes better after sitting a day or two or best inhaled immediately? That is, if it lasted long enough for you to say :-)
March 23rd, 2012 at 4:07 pm
Hi DP- it is doesn’t need to sit, but will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days.
March 25th, 2012 at 10:51 am
This, I had to make this weekend. Couldn’t wait. And, as Tim’s recipes never let you down, it turned out pretty delicious. Imagine:
a slice of home baked sourdough bread
covered with the richness of a generous layer of hummus
followed by the freshness of a layer of Tim’s carrot puree
and topped off with the spiciness the dukkah.
This is real weekend heaven. I can have this for breakfast, lunch and supper. Thanks Tim :-)
cucee sprouts says:
March 29th, 2012 at 1:32 pm
carrot puree was great
March 31st, 2012 at 4:56 pm
these images are beautiful and making me drool. you are filled with so many talents!
May 5th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
finally got around to making the dukkah this weekend. I had a lot of powdered cumin and coriander, so I used about 1/3 of those instead of grinding the seeds (so 3 tsp ground coriander, 2 tsp ground cumin) and thought it tasted GREAT. it’s wonderful with no-knead bread, but I’ve sprinkled some on eggs, shrimp, and rice. going out on a limb, but I bet it’d also be a nice, savory touch on grilled peaches or maybe ice cream
June 6th, 2012 at 3:16 am
I live in Egypt, and have never had dukkah with coconut, sounds great!
June 29th, 2012 at 6:51 am
I love dukkah! Where I used to live in Holland, there was a baked potato shop that sold potatoes with beetroot, creme fraiche and dukkah. It was an amazing combination. But I also love carrot purees. I guess I’ll just have to make both!
December 20th, 2012 at 1:34 pm
Trader Joes sells Dukkah now, and it is wonderful!
Divya @ ShootsandTendrils says:
April 11th, 2014 at 3:32 am
I made this last night as part of a meze and was delightfully surprised. Now I know to buy a big bag of carrots so I can make this and use on sandwiches or even eggs. The only thing I’d do differently is use lemon juice instead of vinegar because vinegar made it sweeter. Thank you!