Monday, July 2, 2012

A Fresh Take On An Old School Recipe

Friends, I am going retro on you, in the form of shredded carrot salad.  I am OBSESSED right now!  Seriously, I made some in May when I was trying to use up food in fridge, and since then I've made it THREE more times, because I liked it so much.  I've been tweaking the recipe a bit, and I've come up with something I'm really happy with.  I'm sure I'm not the first one to come up with my particular combination of ingredients, particularly because there are only 5, but I'm pretty darn pleased with it.

So, other than the fun retro factor, carrot salad is great for all these reasons, in no particular order:  
  1. It's super easy to make.
  2. It's fairly quick to make (provided you have a food processor with a grating disk.  If you don't, you probably want to stop reading, because grating tons of carrots by hand is time consuming, annoying, and you're guaranteed to lose a fair bit of knuckle skin, and no one likes that.
  3. It's cheap.  Which is good when you want to make a lot to feed your friends, or bring to a BBQ or a potluck.
  4. The ingredients are in season year-round (in the grocery store, anyway),  so once you discover how great this, you can make it forever. 
  5. It's actually quite healthy and surprisingly filling.
  6. It's the perfect make-ahead dish because it actually tastes better after sitting for a day.  The carrots soften and sweeten slightly, the raisins soak up the dressing and get plump and juicy, and the shallot mellows and provides just the right amount of subtle onion flavor.  
  7. It continues to keep really well in the fridge for a whole week up to two weeks.  (I'm doing an experiment to see how long it stays tasty, but I'm 12 days in and it tastes as good as day 2)
  8. It can be eaten directly out of the tupperware and viola, instant lunch!  (Or dinner!)
  9. It can be mixed with greens and viola, instant salad!

So many ways to eat it!  So many reasons to make it!

I was reminded of carrot salad when I uncovered my copy of Fanny at Chez Panisse, a kid-centric take on cooking at Chez Panisse, by Alice Waters.  Someone gave it to me when I was about 9 years old. (How did they know that food was my destiny?!)  The carrot salad in that cookbook is seasoned with garlic and parsley, and a simple oil and vinegar dressing--tres Francais!  American carrot salads often have a creamy mayonaise-based dressing, and incorporate a sweet, fruity component, like apples, raisins, or pineapple.  I have borrowed components of each type, nixing the chopped parsley (mostly because I always get it stuck in my teeth, which is awkward), keeping the vinaigrette because I prefer it to creamy dressings, incorporating raisins (or currants), and adding finely diced shallot or red onion.  Salt, pepper, and 24 hours in the fridge--you'll be shocked at how delicious this simple combination can be. 

Shredded Carrot Salad
Makes approximately 12 cups 

I've written the recipe to feed a crowd (or me for like, four meals).  However, it's easy to divide if you need to.  However, the leftovers are fantastic, so don't be scared to make a lot!

* 3 pounds of carrots, preferably organic (approximately 10 large carrots)
* 1 large shallot, finely diced, or about ½ cup of finely diced red onion
* 1 ¾ cups of raisins or currants.  I prefer brown raisins for contrast, but golden raisins are also fine
* 5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
* 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

1. Set up your food processor with the shredder disk. 

2. Scrub your carrots, peel them if you want (I don't, personally), and trim the ends.  Cut the carrots into lengths so that they will fit into the feed tube of the food processor horizontally (see picture below).  I like shredding them this way instead of feeding them vertically because you get longer shreds.

3. Dump the carrots in a large mixing bowl, along with the diced shallot and raisins.  Drizzle with the oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, and toss with your (clean) hands.  

4.  Cover with plastic wrap, or transfer to tupperware, and refrigerate overnight.  

5.  Before serving, taste for salt, pepper, and acidity, and adjust seasoning if necessary.  


Summer Desserts

I got my first out-of-the-blue reader email recently (from someone who turned out to be my parents' neighbor, although we don't actually know him!), asking for summer dessert suggestions.  In my typical long winded way (when you get me talking about dessert), I ended up writing a fairly lengthy response.  Since I haven't had a lot to contribute to the blog lately I figured I'd share my musings with the rest of you, just in time for the Fourth of July!!  My response to him was mostly comprised of ideas, but has a few real recipes thrown in, too (and a reference to my 2010 post about rhubarb jam, that will never, ever get old for me!). 

I love light and fruity desserts, always, but particularly in the summer.  One of my favorite things to make is fruit compote or macerated strawberries, which I serve over a simple panna cotta, yogurt, or a good quality vanilla ice cream.  Panna cotta is lovely because it seems like it's fancy and complicated, but it's actually quite quick to make, and is cool and creamy and can play host to any number of fruity accompaniments.  I have used Ina Garten's recipe with good success.  You need to prep it a day ahead, but the active time is quite short, and won't heat up your kitchen in the summer.  It is as follows: