As much as I’ve tried to expose my kids to adventurous flavors from birth, let’s just say that at this present moment, their tastes veer more towards spaghetti than smoked salmon, and quesadillas will always win out over kale salad. Don’t think for a second that I’m giving up, however – Phoebe and Henry still get a diverse plate of whatever Adam and I are eating every night with our unending pleas of “Try it! You might love it!” One of my friends introduced me to the idea of having an “anytime” bowl in the fridge, full of crunchy fruits and vegetables that your kids are welcome to choose from any time they’re still hungry (for example, when I make curried cauliflower.) The one food that my kids will always munch on any time of day or night is raw carrots, so our bowl is always overflowing with them – which inspired this carrot ribbon salad that I whipped up one recent weeknight when I was overdue for a trip to the grocery and my fridge contained little else.
Carrots, golden raisins, feta, and mint: flavors that are inspired by Morocco and are just unexpected enough to make this simple salad so much greater than the sum of its parts. The beauty lies in the contrasts and the balance. Carrot ribbons are shocked (more on that later) so they’re even colder and crunchier, the feta adds a rich and creamy note, and the golden raisins are plump and sweet.
My favorite orange-tahini dressing brings bright zingy flavors that serve as a lingering reminder of summer, while the seed mix’s warm toasty flavors carry us right into the early fall season.
Now about that carrot “shock” – it’s a revelation for raw carrots! I’ve made lots of salads in the past that feature carrots shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler, but far too often, they became limp and heavy when tossed with dressing. Not so when you start with this simple step. Just use a vegetable peeler to shave off long strips, then plunge into a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes or so. Dry just before using, and get ready to be amazed by the crunchy sweet ribbons that can stand up to the dressing and other heavier ingredients in this salad.
Get creative with whatever herbs, seeds, and nuts you’ve got on hand. I love the look and complex flavors of tossing together a seed “mix” – here I used walnuts, sunflower, pumpkin, and hemp seeds that had all been lightly toasted in a dry skillet – but a single nut or seed sprinkled over everything would be just as delish.
Ditto with the herbs. I love the mix of grassy cilantro with sweet refreshing mint, but go crazy with sliced basil, snipped chives, or chopped parsley for a more classic Mediterranean vibe. And if you want to make this a little more filling for a meal, just add some slices of avocado. YUM.
It’s a salad that even Phoebe will eat! Well, as long as I leave out the radishes, feta, seeds, and dressing. So yes, basically she’ll eat a bowl of carrot ribbons and golden raisins. But hey, it’s a start.
- 8-10 large carrots
- (I love to use multicolored, but any will do)
- 3 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- handful of nuts and/or seeds
- (I like a mix of walnuts, sunflower, pumpkin, & hemp seeds)
- 1/2 cup fresh herbs, like cilantro and mint, roughly chopped (plus more for garnishing)
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- coarse sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- zest and juice of 1 orange (about 3 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp tahini mixed with 1 tbsp very hot water until smooth
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt & pepper
- Fill a cup with very hot water and soak the golden raisins for at least 5 minutes. Drain, then set aside.
- Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, shave the carrots into long wide ribbons. Plunge into the ice water bath until ready to use, for at least 10 minutes, and up to an hour.
- Make dressing by combining all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
- If your nuts and seeds are raw, place them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, just until they start to smell toasty. Remove and let cool.
- When ready to assemble salad, dry carrot ribbons well, then add to a serving bowl with radish slices, golden raisins, nuts, seeds, and herbs. Toss with a little dressing until everything is lightly coated, then add crumbled feta, drizzle with a little more dressing, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and more fresh herbs for garnish. Eat!