I’ve been pulling carrots out of my garden this week. I eat most of them raw, just sitting at my desk, mindlessly munching. The other humans in my house aren’t into our stubby little Red-Cored Chantenays (although the dogs think they’re amazing treats).
So I laughed out loud the other day when I was watching It Happened One Night on TV. You remember this one. It’s a classic Frank Capra screwball rom-com from 1934 that won the big five Academy Awards that year. Dreamy Clark Gable is a journalist on the run with spoiled heiress Claudette Colbert, dead broke and hungry, and he offers her a carrot he’s pilfered from someone’s garden. Mortified, she looks at him as though he’s insane. “RAW?!” she huffs and turns up her nose even though she’s starving. A few minutes later she’s bumping down the road in a purloined jalopy and we know she’s made a major life transition when she humbly picks up a carrot and chomps away.
Whether you grow them, buy them at a farmers market or just pick up a 99-cent bag at the grocery store, humble carrots get pretty fancy when you turn them into perfect little matchsticks. You can use your sharpest chef’s knife to cut those matchsticks, or try a julienne peeler. It looks like a regular vegetable peeler, but with a row of sharp teeth. It makes skinny little matchsticks from almost anything and it doesn’t take up much room in the drawer. Julienne peelers usually cost less than $10.
A mandoline is an awesome thing to have around the house. I use mine for pommes Anna or Tarte Tatin, two recipes that transform humble ingredients into delicious works of art. But it’s also the best tool for julienning a bunch of something. Williams-Sonoma has a particularly wide selection, from a $40 Oxo model to a $200 de Buyer Revolution. Somewhere in between is probably fine.
Of course you can also just shred carrots with the same box grater you’ve had forever—the point is to cut raw carrots into small pieces.
You can simply toss them with some fresh herbs and a homemade vinaigrette and voila! A little salad even Claudette Colbert would eat. Or here are a few other ideas:
(Vietnamese Pickled Carrots and Daikon)
This is the ubiquitous garnish you find nestled in your banh mi sandwich and snuggling up to the grilled pork with your rice vermicelli. Daikon radishes are those long, skinny white radishes you see in Asian markets. The flavor is much milder than regular red radishes and it mellows considerably in this quick pickle.
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/2 pound carrots and daikon radish, julienned
- In a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl, combine the water, sugar, salt and vinegar. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
- Pack the julienned vegetables into glass jars and pour the vinegar mixture over them. Seal the jars and let them sit overnight or preferably several days before using. They’ll last a few weeks in the fridge.
Grated Moroccan Carrot Salad
Most recipes for this dish use chunks of lightly cooked carrots, but it’s also a great way to use grated fresh carrots.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 pound carrots, grated
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, mint or cilantro
- Cayenne, hot paprika or red chile powder to taste
- Salt to taste
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and spices. Add the carrots and herbs and toss to combine. Season to taste with chile and salt.
- Serve immediately or allow the flavors to meld on the counter for an hour or so.
Raw Carrot and Beet Salad
If you’re pulling beets out of the garden with the carrots, why not mix the two together in a pretty, earthy salad?
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 4/6 tablespoons olive oil
- Honey or agave nectar to taste
- 1 pound carrots and beets, grated or julienned
- Salt and pepper
- In a small bowl, add the balsamic vinegar, orange zest and juice, then pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, until you like the consistency.
- In a large bowl, toss the grated vegetables with enough vinaigrette to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.