Incan Carrot Salad

Play with Your Food — Carrots Become the Sun

I teased this carrot salad into a party wonder after visiting a family-run eatery that served dishes from their native Peru. This salad sparkled and tasted so alive! It speaks of Incan colors, sweet-tart flavors, and love. Gus Rosario and his wife Rosa immigrated from Peru. With true grit determination—he could not find work with his engineering degree—so they opened their own restaurant!

Carrots are a veggie that improves in every way by shaping. Eat a carrot out of hand—Bugs Bunny style—is not so interesting. But grate, julienne, juice, purée, or grill, bake, or poach them and carrots are coaxed into greatness. This salad uses a simple grater to create a light, chewy texture.

Let the sun shine on you! Did I mention this is easy crafting you get to eat?

SHOPPING FOR CARROTS

Carrots with tops are tops!
Carrots with tops are tops!

When you see a bunch of bright carrots with green tops I want you to think about Incan Carrot Salad. “Baby carrots,” by the way, are not babies, they are fashioned to look like them from all sorts of bigger and broken ones. Stick with whole ones.
As a gardener and farmers market supporter, it’s special for me to find carrots with their tops still attached. That is the best indicator of fresh. Gather a bunch, test-taste a carrot tip for flavor. While you’re there, gather a head of romaine lettuce. Make up this simple vinaigrette and watch the dish begin to glow!

INCAN CARROT SALAD

Ingredients: Serves 4-6 as a side salad

carrots, 4 large, grated on medium size grater
raisins, 1/4 cup, or dried cranberries
lime zest, 2 tsp.

lime juice, 6 TBS., from 3 or 4 limes
sea salt, 1/4 tsp.
honey, 3 TBS., clover or other light-colored variety
oil, bland 1 TBS.
romaine lettuce, 1 head [optional] 8-12 whole leaves

OPTIONAL: Put chili powderchili flakes or hot sauce on the table for an added dimension. Or add finely minced, fresh chilies or chili powder to the dressing.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Grate the carrots and toss with raisins. Mix the additional ingredients separately to make the lime-honey vinaigrette and then toss in with the carrots and raisins. Place in the fridge and chill, about an hour. Serve as-is or create a lettuce corona by laying 8 to 12 leaves around a large serving platter. Before displaying the lettuce, stack them and use a pair of scissors to cut away a notch on the tops to create points.

For a GRILLED INCAN SALAD VERSION:

Slow grilled carrots
Slow grilled carrots: bring it on!

This is an Extra Depth, Extra Credit Dish!

Carrots become other-worldly when grilled or roasted. And like all grilled veggies, tossing in a vinaigrette right off the heat develops more intense flavor.

Here’s how:

Slow-grill halved carrots brushed or sprayed with a little oil and lightly salted. Turn every 5 minutes or so until well caramelized, about 20-25 minutes. Toss them immediately in the vinaigrette. Shred them in a food processor for above presentation, or serve as-is on a bed of shredded romaine.

If it’s not grilling weather, bake at 425º F. for 20-25 minutes turning once, until carrots are browned in several spots.

MASTERY EN PLACE: Carrot Texturing

Getting carrots into shape adds visual and textural pleasure. This takes only a few hand tools. An old-fashioned box grater has 4 different sized grating holes to choose from. A julienne peeler can make match sticks of carrots with each swipe. It looks and works just like a vegetable peeler. A chefs knife can slice carrots into thin rounds or ovals. A favorite Asian style is to cut carrots into two-inch lengths and then square the sides. Then slice down the plank into thin planks; perfect for stir fry color, shape and texture!

IN•CITE

“Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going.” – Tennessee Williams

© Bill Hettig, billhettig@mac.com

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