Papaya Salad with a Moroccan Twist
I have a special fruit salad to share today, inspired by some of the Moroccan flavours combined with a very non-Moroccan fruit (papaya). A dressing of fresh mint, orange blossom water and honey give a sparkly boost to papaya, figs and candy-like dates. The whole mixture is topped with finely chopped salted almonds, dried rose petals, and a tiny drizzle of argan oil - it's totally lovely, as well as naturally free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar.
Next week, I plan to post photos from my trip around beautiful Morocco as well as to share my top tips for where to stay and eat. The trip was so full of fantastic food, people, and settings that I am still processing it all. I can tell you this though: I loved it and am already dreaming of going back.
For the moment, I've been finding myself adding some of the Moroccan flavours I love to most of what's come out of my kitchen since I've returned - it's all mint, sumac, argan oil with thoughts of whipping up a ras el hanout spice mix and some homemade chermoula. And tajine, of course. Today though, I have fruit salad. This one's quite a bit different than the fruit salads we ate each morning with breakfast, but it's absolutely inspired by my trip. I was wandering around the grocery store, as I love to do, and came across some very ripe papayas. Usually, the papayas here are much too green and not ready to eat but these little babes were yellow and splotchy and pretty much perfect so of course, I had to take one home. Usually papayas are just sliced up and eaten as-is around here, but I also had come across a tray of ripe figs (you could say it was a very successful grocery shop!) and wanted to find a way to combine the two.
My kitchen table is still covered by many of the ceramics, glassware, and ingredients I brought home with me. I'm perpetually a wonderful packer but terrible un-packer. I noticed the dried roses and argan oil, and immediately my thoughts jumped to the mint in the fridge and I knew I could tie them all together! Mint is no stranger to fruit salad, but do you ever find yourself with a mouthful of sliced mint that just isn't very pleasant? I've taken care of that by crushing fresh mint into a paste, combined with local honey and just a bit of orange blossom water - the combo is dreamy and so delicious that I had to make a second batch just as soon as I finished making the first! Toss the papaya and figs with this dressing and you already have something delightful, but to add a few extra touches I also slivered my new favourite "candy' (deglet nour dates), and crunchy salted almonds and then topped the whole thing with some of the rose petals I brought back, and the tiniest drizzle of argan oil. The result is an absolute delight - fresh, a little sweet, and the kind of thing that just tastes like sunshine and could be eaten for breakfast, an afternoon treat, or dessert. I can picture myself enjoying this one now as I remember sitting on the terrace of my riad, and all through the warm months to come here at home.
Edible argan oil was at the top of my list of things I wanted to find in Morocco. I found mine in Essaouira, the little town where much of the country's argan oil is produced. It was there I learned that the difference between edible and cosmetic argan oil is simply that culinary argan oil is toasted, whereas cosmetic argan oil is raw. Personally, my feeling is that as long as the source is credible and high quality, that raw and cold-pressed cosmetic argan oil would also be safe to consume. I suggest that because I've been keeping an eye out for culinary argan oil for a couple years here in Canada, without luck! If you are unable to find argan oil for this recipe, simply skip it or replace it with an easier to source nut oil, like pistachio. It adds a lovely nutty quality to the dish but certainly there are plenty of flavours going on here and it will be okay to go without :)
Here's to May and the slow seasonal shift towards Spring. Wishing you guys a wonderful week! xo
Papaya Salad with a Moroccan Twist
Note: Orange blossom water can be found cheaply in the international aisle of many grocery stores - I use the Cedar brand, which is generally about $2 and is pure (without additives or artificial flavours).
1/4 cup fresh mint, packed
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water (fleur de l'orange)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon raw honey
about a half of a medium-sized ripe papaya, peeled and seeds discarded
3-4 ripe figs
5 deglet nour dates, pitted and slivered
1 tablespoon salted almonds, finely chopped
8-10 dried rose petals, crushed or finely chopped
argan oil, to drizzle
Slice the papaya into 1/4 inch pieces. Take each slice and then cut again into 1 inch sized bites. Place in a bowl and set aside.
Roughly chop the mint, then transfer to a mortar and pestle, and add the honey and orange blossom water. Use the pestle to crush the mint and work it into a paste - this takes only a few minutes. It's okay if there are some slightly larger pieces of mint remaining, but you should aim to have a well-integrated paste without chunks.
Slice the figs into thin wedges and add to the bowl with papaya. Add the dates, almonds, and mint paste and gently toss to combine. Add most of the crushed dried rose petals (saving a bit for garnish) and toss again. Divide the salad into serving dishes, drizzle each with a tiny bit (approximately 1/4 teaspoon each) of argan oil and the remaining rose petals and serve. Keep any leftover salad in a covered container in the fridge, and consume within the day.