INSIDE RECIPE: Carrot Salad with Golden Raisins and Almonds
Note: A short writing piece about carrots precedes this recipe. If you want to go directly to the recipe, simply scroll down.
When I write that word, what do you think? Does your mouth start salivating? Do you begin to think of carrots and nothing but carrots? Did you just leave the computer to run to the veggie bin so you could rifle through bags of rotting lettuce to get to that bag of carrots that you clearly remember buying one month ago?
Exactly what I suspected. You did none of those things. Here’s why: it seems like a carrot, unless smothered in butter or brown sugar, turned into a cake and covered in sugary icing or dipped in ranch dressing, is just a “blah” food. Its green, grassy top juts out one side of its body. On its other side, its shabby, unshaven “finger” points at you, daring you to find it attractive. This is what a carrot does. Nowadays, a carrot barely gets a chance to do this. By the time it has reached you, its top has been ripped off, its body cleanly cut and nicely rounded. It is glossy and exists as a bite-size morsel and is shoved into a bag with its brothers and sisters whom it can no longer identify. So that you might get your hands on one of these shiny, little nuggets, manufacturers price them just right around $1.50-$2/bag. Bunk, I say!
I do not say “bunk” to a carrot’s unglamorous nature. I say “bunk” to buying those nifty little bags (unless you are hosting a party–I’m not entirely averse to what is the easiest). I suggest getting back to a basics. I’ve done this recently and have found that the carrot isn’t always the dullard I thought it was. Sure, the nifty bags are enticing, but unless you are a carrot connoisseur, you and I know that you will never make it through the bag. It will sit under those bags of lettuce and rot with the best of them. After weeks of being unused, these mini-carrots appear to be full of water, and what becomes a superslick outer skin of each bite-size carrot looks gross. Let’s not forget that you may just add on prep time because you’ll have to squeeze the excess water out of the damn things before you throw them into your salad, only to watch them plummet to the bottom and go uneaten.
A few carrots can go a long way and can escape mundaneness if you just doll them up a bit. Here’s what I did last weekend with some carrots that I bought in as natural a state as I could get them in the store (Wegman’s, 7ish in a pack, organic, stalks on, dirty skin on, wrapped in a rubber band, no packaging, just good ol’ carrots (I hope)-$1.29, I believe).
Carrot Salad with Golden Raisins and Almonds
This particular side dish feeds 2-3 people and takes (all prep time) approx. 15 minutes. If you have 2-3 big eaters and consider this a key side dish, I’d suggest doubling the recipe. You should be able to do so a minimal cost.
Ingredients: four medium carrots, approx. one Tablespoon (T) of fresh cilantro, handful of golden raisins, handful of almond slivers, one large lemon and zest, approx. 1/2 to 1 T full of vinegar, mayo (optional)
1. Wash and peel carrots. Cut tips of carrot ends. Throw these things away.
2. With your carrot peeler, peel carrots down to the center of each carrot (without losing a finger or worse). **When I was done with peeling, I just ate what was left of the carrot core. These peels will be the long, standard peels if you do not have some nifty carrot slicer & curler, so then . . .
3. Roughly line up your gaggle of carrot peels and cut them a couple of times until they are cut into edible sizes. Throw into medium mixing bowl. ***The thicker, standard nature of these peels adds to the texture of the final product. Also, it is my theory that these larger peels better absorb the natural ingredients you’ll add.
4. Finely chop 1/2 to 1 T of cilantro and throw in with carrots. ***Add this to taste.
5. Add a handful of golden raisins and a handful of slivered almonds to the bowl.
6. Chop lemon in 1/2. Squeeze 1/2 over existing salad. Watch for seeds! (I have a lemon press, and it is one of my favorite purchases.) Save 1/2 in a Ziploc bag for some other dish (unless you double the recipe).
7. Zest your lemon right atop the salad. ***A zester works best for this, though if you do not have one, you can muster up some zest using a cheese grater. Just PLEASE be careful with this latter method.
8. Stir around and taste. Do you need more of something at this point? You might add a little more, but here come the next steps.
9. Add approx. 1/2 T to 1 T of vinegar.
10. Add a small bit of mayo, roughly 1/2 T. ***This step is optional, but I find that it neutralizes the acidity of the lemon and the vinegar. Not adding a lot not only saves calories & fat but also keeps salad fresh, not cream-based or mushy.
11. Stir. Add anything else to taste but a LITTLE at a time. Mmmmm.
Here’s what I served it with:
- broiled salmon (hi broil for approx 6-7 min., light coating of olive oil, dab of butter, small dashes of salt and pepper)
- bed of arugula (from bag) drizzled with small amount of balsamic vinaigrette and tossed
- black beans (from a can–rinse them with water in a strainer if you would like less salt–know it decreases but don’t know by how much)
- placed black beans atop salmon and draped carrot salad on top of black beans so that it could be in multiple bites
I believe this was a good meal because I am discovering a few things as I go: 1) You can never go wrong with color on your plate. Mix those colors and 2) I am searching for ingredients in their natural states while avoiding becoming insane about it. I’m not always successful at the latter, but I do have to say that getting back to basics (a feat in a metropolis) is worth it to me. If you take shortcuts, that’s okay, but try something new today and have fun!!