Carrots are available all year long, but they actually have two different seasons. The early summer crop is at peak right now; much of the fall harvest will go into storage.
At the farmers markets the carrots of rainbow colors differ slightly in taste: The purple are earthy and peppery; the golden are the mildest; and orange and red can be intensely sweet. When you use a mix of shredded carrots in a slaw, you get the full range of “carrotness,” because shredding actually intensifies their flavors.
When a carrot is cut fine, its cells rupture and release sugars and fragrance — the finer the cut, the sweeter the carrot will taste. Shredding also changes how the carrot will take to the dressing, because carrot shreds have a more porous surface. You want enough acid to balance a carrot’s sweetness, but not one that is so strong it drowns it out. Use a good oil; unrefined sunflower oil, hazelnut or walnut add a note of nuttiness.
Carrot salads, seasoned with warm spices such as cumin, coriander and hot peppers, are an integral part of the Israeli and Moroccan spreads served in homes and restaurants. Varying from piquant to fiery, these are presented at room temperature along with baba ghanoush, hummus and a tahini dip. They also make a bright side dish to grilled chicken or lamb, are wonderful piled onto sandwiches or stuffed into a pita with chèvre.
Thanks to their sturdy nature, lightly dressed carrot salads can be made ahead and held for a day, without getting weepy, perfect for picnics, backyard barbecues or camping trips.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.
Spicy Sweet Summer Carrot Slaw
Serves 4 to 6
Note: Tart, spicy and slightly sweet, this simple salad tastes even better if the flavors have a little time to marry before serving. It may be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated in a covered container. Apples add a little extra crunch, but feel free to leave them out if you want the focus on carrots, and you can substitute your favorite nuts for the coconut, if you’d like. From Beth Dooley.
• 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
• 1 tsp. honey
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
• 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp. sweet paprika
• 1/2 to 1 tsp. harissa or 1/4 tsp. cayenne, to taste
• 1/4 c. hazelnut or sunflower oil
• 1 lb. carrots, coarsely grated (about 4 to 4-1/2 c.)
• 1 small apple, cored, thinly sliced, cut into 1/2-in. pieces
• 1/4 c. flaked unsweetened coconut
• 1/4 c. dried cranberries
• 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika and harissa. Whisk in the oil in a slow steady stream.
In a large bowl, toss together the carrots, apple, coconut, cranberries and cilantro. Toss in just enough of the dressing to lightly coat the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Nutrition information per serving of 6:
Carbohydrates 19 g
Protein 1 g
Fat 12 g
Saturated fat 3 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 60 mg
Added sugars 5 g
Dietary fiber 4 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, 2½ fat.