by Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet
I want to apologize for ever taking you for granted. I have always just seen you as a vegetable in the background like that completely unremarkable music in the doctor’s office. It is easy to take you for granted because you are always in the vegetable isle come rain or shine or season. You are a cheap and easy date that is always there for me no matter how I treat you.
I have marveled and written about your feathery tops and made an outrageous carrot top pesto that rocks everyone’s world. Oh and your carrot cake, dear lord what a masterpiece that is! I have waxed poetically about that numerous times concocting many riffs on it from cookies to ice cream. But I am sorry to say I have not written about you, just little ole’ you.
But I am a changed woman now that I have my own garden and am growing your lovely kind in bright and happy colors of purple, white and orange. I realize how tiny weeny your seeds are and how tough it is to make a straight row and then when it is time to thin your rows how hard it is to choose which of you must go! Each one of you are my babies! Yes, I have changed.
I am here to sing your praises and trumpet on high about how you are in the height of your season right now, no matter that you are available all year, this is your time to shine. When I pluck one of you from the garden, rinse you off and bite into you, your crunchy carrot flavor bursts in my month and I am humbled. How could I take advantage of you? You mean so much more to me than I have shared.
Not only are you delicious but your nutritional benefits are astounding as you are popping with beta carotene and fiber. Dear carrot you so graciously share your vitamin A, C and K and other impressive nutrients with us so that we can have lower cholesterol and blood pressure, boosted immune systems and maybe even see a bit better in the dark.
On top of being a nutritional powerhouse you are so versatile! You go so well in just about any dish. I love you cooked, fresh and anything in between. I love you in stews, soups, salads, stir fries, desserts and just about anything else but particularly raw and fresh out of the garden. Yes, my beloved carrot, you are amazing and I promise to never take advantage of you again.
To show you my devotion I am making a salad that highlights your vibrant color and sweet flavor. It has been a favorite in in the Middle East since the early 1940’s when raw carrots were a new and wild thing to put on the table. Before that you were only served cooked with a similar dressing to this raw salad.
This salad has been jazzed up a bit to celebrate you, dear carrot, with the use of cinnamon and cayenne but I think it does you justice. After all, this is your season to shine and to take the main stage instead of just being a supportive roll, like you always get relegated to. I have made a few versions of this that I am also sharing to really get in the carrot spirit!
Thank you carrots. I love you.
Moroccan(ish) raw carrot salad
Adapted from a recipe on Epicurious.com. Serves 4.
1 pound of grated carrots (4 cups of grated carrots)
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3-4 TBLS of fresh lemon juice (One fat lemon does it)
1 tsp of honey
2-4 cloves of pressed garlic (Depending on how garlicy you like it)
1 tsp of ground cumin
1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of sweet paprika
1/4 tsp of salt
A pinch or two of cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1/2 cup of dried cranberries or raisins
Grate your carrots up and set aside. (I tell you, if you do this in the food processor it is a snap!) Mix up the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk it up until well blended. Pour over the carrots and then mix well until all the carrots are covered in a fine blanket. Toss in the parsley and the dried cranberries or raisins and mix some more. Set in the fridge for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight for the flavors to really develop. Enjoy this super food!
-Variations to try:
-Turkish Carrot salad with yogurt; Substitute 1 cup of plain yogurt for the lemon juice.
-Moroccan Carrot-orange salad; Omit the cumin and add 1.5 tsp of orange blossom water or 1/2 cup of orange juice then 1/4 cup of chopped fresh spearmint instead of the parsley/cilantro.
-Moroccan cooked salad; (The traditional way) Don’t grate the carrots but cut them into round slices and gently boil them till crisp-tender. Drain and rinse in cold water and drain again. Toss with the all the above ingredients and serve chilled.