Grill-roasted Spiced Carrot Dip
I'm a man of comfort and tradition, and when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal, those traits translate into cooking the same foods each year with very little deviation. The one expectation that I make is usually in the appetizers, where I have a couple standards, rotate through a few others, and then usually add one or two new things into the mix. While I'll be on the road this year and celebrating the holiday with a grand steak dinner out, I was wondering...if I were hosting per usual, what fitting new thing would I possibly try out? I ended up cooking one of the thoughts that crossed my mind when pondering that question—a grill-roasted spiced carrot dip.
I made some really tasty chili-spiced carrots on the grill at the end of the last Meatwave season and wondered why I don't take this veggie to the flames more often. Like with oven-roasting, you get that concentrated sweetness along with tender flesh, but with the added bonus of a light grilled flavor that comes from both the bit of charring and mellow smokiness.
Carrots may feel counterintuitive for the grill, where long, thin things can easily slip through the grates to a fiery death. However, there's an easy solution for that—buy big ass carrots! I like to pick the largest specimens at the grocery store, and then after peeling, slice them into large chunks on the bias, creating ample surface area to avoid them from falling through the grates.
After tossing with oil and seasoning with salt and pepper, I put these carrots on the cool side of a two-zone fire, where all the coals were situated on one side of the charcoal grate. I then covered the grill and let them roast until completely tender. This was not a quick proposition as it took about 45 minutes total for them to reach this state. During that time, I checked them about every 15 minutes, flipping and rearranging the carrot slices as needed for even cooking.
Once done, I move the carrots inside and transferred them to the workbowl of a food processor. I then pulsed them begin the chopping process.
Next I added in the seasonings—cilantro, harissa, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, and cumin. I continue to pulse until everything was finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times to ensure everything was evenly processed. At this point it didn't look much like a dip, but I had one more step left to go.
With the motor running, I drizzled in extra-virgin olive oil until the carrot mixture transformed into a smoother, scoop-able dip. I wasn't sure how much oil this would take when I started, but half a cup felt right as it came together. I should mention that I also ate this dip a fews later after the initial serving, and it had dried out a bit, but adding just a little more olive oil and giving it a stir brought it back to the consistancy it had when first put it together.
After seasoning the dip with salt and pepper, I transferred it to an airtight container and placed it in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld and for the dip to completely chill—I envisioned it being served either cold or room temperature, but not warm, as it currently was.
When it came time to serve, I put the dip into a nicer bowl and sprinkled some fresh cilantro on top for garnish. I chose to enjoy the dip with homemade pita chips (a speciality of mine), but you can use whatever crispy thing you like or fresh vegetables—I think any manner of dippers would work well with the dip's robust flavor. Font and center was the lightly sweet roasted carrot flavor, but that was balanced well by the spicy harissa. The ginger and garlic both furthered the "spiced" component with their own distinct sharpness that felt at home with the earthy cumin too. Both the lemon juice and cilantro helped boost the freshness, which otherwise would have been missed in a dip with such heavy foundations. As I was eating this, it certainly felt like it would be at home as part of a Thanksgiving appetizer spread, and certainly would be a contender to make it on the menu if I was hosting the dinner this year. However, I would still have to face my own personal hurdle in choosing which annual dip would get the axe in order to make way for this one, and I'm sure the answer would probably be none, and I'd just make all the things, because that's how I roll come holiday time.
Grill-roasted Spiced Carrot Dip
- Yield 6-8 servings
- Prep 20 Minutes
- Inactive 2 Hours
- Cook 45 Minutes
- Total 3 Hours 5 Minutes
- 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch slices
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped packed cilantro
- 2 tablespoons harissa
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Toss carrot slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium bowl. Season lightly with salt. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place carrot slices on cool side of grill. Cover and cook until tender all the way through, about 45 minutes, flipping carrots every 15 minutes for even cooking.
- Transfer carrots to the workbowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add in cilantro, harissa, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, and cumin. Pulse until carrots are finely chopped, stopping to scrape down side of bowl as necessary. With processor running, slowly drizzle in the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season dip with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer dip to an airtight container and place in refrigerator until chilled and ready to serve, 2 hours up to 3 days. Transfer dip to a bowl and serve with pita chips and/or vegetables for dipping.