ORANGES, RADISHES AND RED ONION make a lovely salad on their own; Moroccan, Tunisian and Egyptian cooking all have tasty examples. For this meal, I decided to add fennel, for a welcome crunch—and because there it was, at the market. The dressing is an orange citronette (using orange juice as the acid, instead of lemon or vinegar). To prepare the orange segments, cut off each end of the orange, stand it on end and, using a sharp knife, cut downward in an arc, taking the pith and peel off. Finally, separate each segment from the membrane. (Here’s a handy video from Food52 if you’d like a demo.)
Serves 62 fennel bulbs, halved, cored, then very thinly sliced to create crescent shapes2 oranges, peeled and in segments, membranes removed 4 radishes, thinly sliced (a mandoline makes this easy)1/2 small red onion, halved, then very thinly slicedHandful of mint leaves For the citronette:Zest and juice of one orange¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil2 tsp Dijon mustardSea saltFreshly ground black pepper
Combine fennel, orange segments, radishes and onion in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the orange zest and juice with the mustard, then whisk in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour citronette into the bowl with the fennel combo, add mint leaves and toss gently.
I’VE COME ACROSS MANY DIFFERENT VERSIONS of Tunisian and Moroccan carrot salads. Some are made with julienned raw carrots, often with raisins added. This one, though, is made with cooked carrots, which are tossed with a spicy citronette at the end. (Tunisian carrot salad is sometimes garnished with hard-boiled eggs and olives, a version that would make a great light lunch on its own.) A good harissa (hot chili sauce), made at Les Moulins Mahjoub in Tunisia, is available at Le Pain Quotidien.
Serves 4, as side dish1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into thin (1/4-inch) angled slices2-3 tbs lemon juice (depending how lemony you want it)½ tsp ground cumin¼ tsp ground cinnamon1/8 tsp cayenne (or more, to taste) 1/8 tsp harissa4 tbs extra-virgin olive oilHandful of flat-leaf parlsey, choppedSea saltFreshly ground black pepper
Boil a medium saucepan of salted water and cook the carrot slices for 5 to 6 minutes. Don’t let them get mushy.
While the carrots are cooking, whisk together the lemon juice, spices, harissa and extra-virgin olive oil in a small bowl.
Drain carrots, let cool a little and place in a bowl.
Add the citronette to the carrots and the parsley and toss gently. Let stand for 10 minutes or so, so that the flavors combine.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET has been added to UNESCO’s representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, four years after Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco first petitioned for its inclusion. Here are excerpts from the UNESCO citation (emphasis added):
The Mediterranean diet constitutes a set of skills, knowledge, practices and traditions ranging from the landscape to the table, including the crops, harvesting, fishing, conservation, processing, preparation and, particularly, consumption of food. [It] is characterized by a nutritional model that has remained constant over time and space, consisting mainly of olive oil, cereals, fresh or dried fruits and vegetables, a moderate amount of fish, dairy and meat, many condiments and spices, all accompanied by wine or infusions.
However, the Mediterranean diet (from the Greek diaita, or way of life) encompasses more than just food. It promotes social interaction, since communal meals are the cornerstone of social customs and festive events.
The system is rooted in respect for the territory and biodiversity, and ensures the conservation and development of traditional activities and crafts linked to fishing and farming in the Mediterranean.
Women play a particularly vital role in the transmission of expertise, as well as knowledge of rituals, traditional celebrations and the safeguarding of techniques.
UNESCO started the list in 2003 because “cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects, but also includes traditions or living expressions” passed from generation to generation. Culinary arts were included as an element of cultural expression for the first time this year. (The gastronomic meal of the French and traditional Mexican cuisine have also been added.)
I browsed through the list of 166 practices and traditions—songs, dance, crafts, festivals, healing arts—and before I knew it I’d whiled away more than half an hour watching videos on Sardinian pastoral polyphonic singing, Azerbaijani carpet-weaving, falconry and Catalonian human towers. It gave me a little of the same feeling I get whenever I look up at the biodiversity wall at the American Museum of Natural History: awe at how many different weird and wonderful expressions life—and human culture—can take. And a reminder that they are worth safeguarding.
Here’s the promotional video for the Mediterranean diet entry (French only, but the visuals are the best part anyway).
Of course there’s been grumbling about criteria for the UNESCO list, how the choices are made, or even whether they should be made at all. Is honoring culinary heritage in this way a good idea? asks historian Rachel Laudan in her Soapbox piece over at Zester Daily, suggesting it may just be part of a “pervasive culinary nostalgia.” Provocative and interesting reading. Don’t miss the comments section; cookbook author Marcella Hazan has a few views of her own.