I used to think winter produce was drab, and that the cook’s only option was to wait the cold months out, squinting into the distance, longing for asparagus and strawberries to appear (“Anne, Sister Anne, do you see nothing coming?”).
Now I can’t imagine how I could ever be so blind: what of mâche and winter squash, what of flower cabbage and broccoli, what of endives and leeks and chard, what of carrots and beets? Do they count for nothing?
If you’ve never tasted the root of a beet in its raw state, I urge you to give it a try, whether or not you (think you) despise cooked beets.
Perhaps it has helped that the Paris winter has been so mild (again) this year and that — in my memory, at least — the sun always seemed to be out on Saturday mornings, as I vélibed to and from the greenmarket.
Whatever the reason, this is the first year I registered a distinct pining when my habitual provider confessed he would have no more winter pears for me (it’s been such a good season for pears!) and when I saw, a few stalls down, the first crop of fresh peas.
“Oh, no!” I sobbed in my turquoise scarf, “this is too soon! I’m not ready to let go of winter just yet!” And then I thought, “I must write about the grated carrot and beet thing before everyone moves on to greener pastures.”
So there you have it: my favorite go-to lunch of the Winter 2007/08 collection, the salad I’ve made and relished on a weekly basis over the past few months, so much so that an estimated 27% of my body mass is now made up of grated carrots and beets.
This salad is based on a simple deduction: grated carrots rule and, although that is a much more hush-hush fact, so do grated beetroots. Ergo, the combination of the two is a civil union made in heaven.
Plus, I’m lazy, and crudivorism is the path of least resistance from basket to mouth.
If you’ve never tasted the root of a beet in its raw state, I urge you to give it a try, whether or not you (think you) despise cooked beets, for the two provide very different taste experiences.
Granted, the addition of grated beets to a grated carrot salad does not cause any sort of quantum shift, but it does add a deeper note to the chord, sweet yet throaty, and it colors the whole thing with the beetroot’s infectious purple enthusiasm.
I’ve written this salad into a recipe below, because that’s what food bloggers do, but the truth is I never make it twice the same way.
It always begins with (approximately) the same weight of carrots and beets that I peel, grate, and toss with a bit of oil and vinegar, but I then switch to improv mode: I just pluck from the rows of bottles and jars that crowd my kitchen counter, and I pour, dash, sprinkle, and pinch as my mood commands. I suggest you do the same.
- 450 grams (1 pound) uncooked carrots
- 450 grams (1 pound) uncooked beetroots (get small, young ones, with smooth skin and firm flesh)
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced, or 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil (or walnut, or squash seed, or olive oil)
- 1 tablespoon honey vinegar (or cider or balsamic vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon strong Dijon mustard
- Tabasco sauce or poblano pepper flakes, to taste
- Smoked salt (or regular sea salt, or gomasio, or zaatar)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Leafy fresh herbs (cilantro, chervil, flat-leaf parsley), chopped
- Toasted nuts (almonds, pine nuts, cashews, peanuts) or seeds (sesame, sunflower seeds), or better yet, my new friend the dukkah
- Shaved parmesan or cubed feta cheese or crumbled blue cheese
- Mâche or baby spinach leaves
- A grated apple or shallot
- Any dried herb, spice, or spice mix you think might work (and you know there's only one way to find out)
- Trim, peel, and grate the carrots and beets. (If you own a food processor with a grater attachment, yay for you!) Place the rest of the main ingredients, from garlic to black pepper, in a large salad bowl, add the grated carrots and beets, and toss until well combined. Add any desired add-ins and toss again.
- Taste, adjust the seasoning, and let stand for 30 minutes, if you can, before serving: the beets and carrots will render juices that will make the salad moister. If you don't have that kind of time and the salad does not feel quite moist enough, add a dash of citrus juice, tomato juice, or any sort of juice that may currently reside in the refrigerator door.