Before we get into Ellen Kanner’s lovely book, a quick note about the James Beard awards. My book didn’t win. While it would have been great, it also would have been a pretty huge surprise as a first time author. To be a finalist was an entirely sufficient thrill. My wife, Sarina, and I had a fantastic trip to New York, enjoyed all of the parties and after-parties and spent time with a host of wonderful people. We ate ridiculously well, including stellar meals at Del Posto, ABC Kitchen, Taïm, Caracas Arepas Bar and Mission Chinese Food, and off the hook drinks at Booker & Dax. Also, if I may brag on a friend for a moment, my old Louisville pal Adam Sachs (@sachsmo) took down 2 Beard awards on the same night and had a baby the next day. How great is that?
Now, on to the book. I’ve never met Ellen, but we’ve chatted back and forth over the years and she wrote a very kind review of Herbivoracious for HuffPo when it came out. I was excited to get my copy of Feeding the Hungry Ghost in the mail, and have been enjoying it ever since. A hungry ghost, in case you aren’t 100% up on your Taoist theology, is a restless soul, still seeking what it missed out on in life. Ellen’s thesis is that we are all in some way hungry ghosts, wanting both for physical nourishment from our food and for the deeper sense of connection to life and each other that food can bring.
The way I described that sounds preachy though, and Ellen is 180 degrees the opposite of preachy. She’s full of stories about friends who use their ovens as shoe storage, Catholic priests getting caught on the beach in compromising positions, and references to David Foster Wallace. She’s utterly exuberant; a sort of joyful warrior that wants to gently nudge you down the path of eating in a way that you probably already know you should.
But what about the food? Well, I can say conclusively that this Moroccan carrot salad rocks. I made it once, didn’t like the picture I took of it, and had already eaten it all before I realized that. So then a few days later I made it again, took the picture you see above, and ate all of it again. Ellen has the gift of simplicity with food. Most of the recipes contain relatively few ingredients, and most of them are easy to find staples. They invite you in; you just know that if you make a bowl of her green gumbo or a slice of farinata, the world is going to seem like a better place.
- 1 pound carrots
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika (sweet is traditional, smoked is edgy but quite nice)
- Generous pinch of cayenne pepper or, if you have it, Aleppo pepper
- 2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
- Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
- Coarsely shred the carrots in a food processor or cut into 1/4" matchsticks, your call. Dump into a good-size bowl and set aside.
- In a small skillet, heat the oil, cumin, paprika, and cayenne over low heat, stirring now and again until spices darken and the whole thing turns fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- Pour the spiced oil over the carrots. Add the agave nectar, lemon juice, and sea salt and stir until the carrots are evenly coated. (The carrot salad can be stored in a airtight container in the refrigerator for a day.)
- Just before serving, gently stir in the parsley. Enjoy chilled but not gelid.