Cheese. I truly love cheese. I love cheese so much that it would probably be the one item I would want to have with me if I were stranded on a deserted island. Preferably with a box of crackers and some chardonnay but that’s dreaming. And if I had to choose one variety for that deserted island, it would be an aged Gouda. While I am not particularly discriminating and seem to enjoy most cheese varieties, I figure aged Gouda would last a long time as the teeniest of slivers yields such huge flavor.
Well, let’s just say it has come to my attention that while cheese is not the enemy, it may not be my best friend either. I needed to step away from the cheese board and come up with something new to nibble on while I was waiting for my husband to get home for dinner. Preferably this snack would be full of flavor, non-dairy and non-hummus (my rules)!
Traveling and visiting interesting restaurants often sparks kitchen inspiration for me. When I was in LA with my daughter, we went to a restaurant (that will appear in LA Story Part Two) that had a variety of crostini on its menu that you could mix and match with your dining companions. One of the crostini we ordered looked like this plate of deliciousness…
The crostini was spread with a carrot “tapenade”, drizzled with Charmoula which is essentially a cilantro vinaigrette and topped with roasted heirloom carrots that provided texture and interest.
I asked the server what the tapenade had been seasoned with as I detected some rosemary, but none of the more traditional salty “tapenade” ingredients. He mentioned it had an Ayala spice mixture which I am pretty sure is this, produced by La Boite in New York City. Some of La Boite’s spice mixtures can be purchased locally at Sofra Bakery. And if you are a fan of Ina Garten like yours truly
and could recite the lines from every episode, this is where Jeffrey had her special Ina spice mix prepared, but I digress…
When I came home to my kitchen, I thought carrot tapenade sounded like a perfect snack that wasn’t dairy or hummus. But how to make it? Tapenade, a dish from the Provence region of France, is a spread that traditionally consists of olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and olive oil. Obviously the olives would be swapped out for the carrots, but I wasn’t sure about the capers and anchovies.
The first time I made it, I used beautiful loose carrots that I cut and roasted after coating them with olive oil and a generous tablespoon of Herbes de Provence, natch. Once the orange beauties had roasted and become tender and sweet, I placed the carrots in my food processor and mixed them until coarse. I then added some freshly chopped garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and processed the ingredients until smooth. To freshen up the flavors, I added some basil leaves and gave the mixture just a couple of pulses to incorporate them.
The results were terrific. The dip is not only vegetarian but vegan as well. I have now road tested this on many taste testers who seem to agree! I definitely think you should give this one a try and if you do, please let me know how it goes. Thank you to my friend and Kitchen Scout reader, Sheila who kindly agreed to be my recipe tester for this one!
Heirloom carrots from Young Family Farm in Rhode Island…
You may notice some variation in the colors of the tapenades in my pictures because I made and photographed the dish on more than one occasion. The carrots I used from Massachusetts yielded a more orange hued tapenade and those I used from Rhode Island produced more of a yellowish hue…
Fresh, loose carrots are best for this dish as they will have maximum flavor. You do not need to peel the carrots, but give them a good wash and dry before coating them with olive oil and Herbes de Provence. You could also give La Boite’s Ayala spice mixture a try if you are adventurous, but I would cut back on adding salt to compensate for the salt in the spice mixture…
This is the tapenade made from Massachusetts carrots…
And this is the tapenade made from Rhode Island carrots! So funny. Don’t throw away the carrot tops as you can use them as a garnish or even make a lovely pesto from them…
I just served the tapenade on crostini in these pictures, but you could also put a layer of seasoned ricotta or goat cheese on the crostini first and add a dollop of the tapenade to fancy it up. It would also be delicious as a spread in a vegetarian sandwich with some grilled veggies…
The color actually reminds me of aged Gouda…
Until next time!
One Year Ago: A review of Giulia Restaurant
Enjoy this tapenade with crostini, plain crackers, as a dip for crudite or even as a sandwich spread. It is garlicky in flavor so if you are not a big fan, you may want to start with 1 teaspoon of minced garlic and increase it to 2 teaspoons after tasting.
- 2 large fresh carrots (see notes)
- 2 Tablespoons plus ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 Tablespoon Herbes de Provence
- 1 large clove garlic, minced to yield 2 teaspoons
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 8 large fresh basil leaves
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle.
- Wash and dry carrots and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces to yield 2 rounded cups (you do not need to peel the carrots). Place carrot pieces in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the Herbes de Provence, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Toss carrots until completely coated with seasonings and place on a ½ sheet pan that has been lined with foil. Roast carrots in the oven, turning once until tender, 30-40 minutes.
- Remove carrots from oven and allow to cool slightly. Place carrots and any residual oil and herbs into a food processor and pulse until coarse. Add garlic and lemon juice and pulse again to combine. With motor running, add remaining ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube and process the carrots until you have a relatively smooth puree (there may still be tiny chunks of carrots which is fine). Add basil and pulse just until the basil is incorporated. Season mixture with an additional ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Tips from The Kitchen Scout
For the best flavor, I would recommend using carrots that are as fresh as possible. Loose carrots, rather than those you find in a bag will work best. Depending on the size of your carrots, you may need more than 2 to yield a rounded 2 cups of cut carrots.
Ok another winner from Val! This tapenade is delicious and easy . I used farm fresh carrots that roasted a bit on the yellow side and some organic ” baby carrots” to make sure the Orange color was retained . I also added more lemon juice maybe 2tbdp instead of one . I was generous with the basil too . It’s the right combo of flavors -sweet from carrots, hot from garlic and sour lemon and salt .Huge hit ! My family spread it on their corn, their roast chicken and bread it is dElise as a condiment or an hors d’oevte , thanks Val!
Hi Pam! Wow – this is a wonderful endorsement and I love that your family used it in so many ways! It really is a very flexible dish and nice to have in the fridge when your meal needs a kick of flavor! Thank you for commenting!!!
Hi Valerie – what a great post. Thanks for mentioning the Ayala N.16 spice blend (it is, in fact, made at La Boîte by Lior Lev Sercarz). We are looking forward to seeing what restaurant this was in! If you are ever in NYC, come visit us at the shop in Hells Kitchen.
All the best!
Thank you so much! I am coming to NYC in early September and hope I can stop by! All the best!