I first tasted harissa when I was 19, and I traveled on a lone adventure to Tunisia. I browsed the open markets, particularly drawn to the fragrant spice section with its unfamiliar, dazzling aromas. I bought as many small pouches of mystery spices that my student budget could afford. My favorite was harissa, a mix of chilies and warm spices like coriander, cumin and paprika.

Thirty years later, harissa is fairly easy to find in the U.S. If you like spicy food at all, it’s a worthy purchase. It’s available in both paste and dry powdered form, and once it’s on your shelf, you’ll find hundreds of uses for harissa – mix it into hummus or yogurt for a quick dip, add a spoonful to stews to deepen the flavor, rub meat for grilling, brush it on roasted or sauteed vegetables, or even on buttered toast for a tasty garlic-bread-like indulgence.

Today’s recipe for North African Carrot and Chickpea Salad pairs lightly sweet carrots with the warmth of harissa, and the result is balanced and not overly spicy, although feel free to add more or less according to your tastes.

NORTH AFRICAN CARROT AND CHICKPEA SALAD

Servings: 8

SALAD:

3 cups shredded carrots

11/4 cup cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained if canned, about 1 can

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

2 green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped almonds

DRESSING:

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice or lime juice

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest

1 teaspoon powdered harissa (or 1 tablespoon harissa paste), or to taste (If you can’t find it, substitute a mixture of smoked or sweet paprika, cayenne, cumin, coriander and granulated garlic.)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Place all the salad ingredients in a salad bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, lemon or lime juice and zest, water, harissa and salt until well-blended. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until blended. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve.