Late Winter Carrot Salad

March 2013 021This past weekend I was asked to bring a vegetable to a family gathering and inexplicably found myself at a total loss. I had never prepared a vegetable as a dish to pass and many of the options I found—green bean casseroles, cauliflower gratin, creamed spinach and the like—didn’t do much for me.

Just put some green beans in a casserole dish, you might exclaim. But I wanted to make something more interesting and tasty.

What I love about the carrot salad we ultimately chose is that it’s so colorful and vibrant, and uniquely flavorful without any kind of dressing (just a bit of fennel, coriander, and lime juice playing off the sweetness of the roasted carrots). It was also nice to be able to prepare the dish ahead of time and quickly assemble at the party. Once of our nieces enjoyed helping to “whimsically”¬† arrange the carrots as the recipe instructs.

The dish was a hit and certainly one I would make again. Perhaps I over-thought the whole vegetable side dish assignment, but in the end, I enjoyed making something new and interesting and was proud of our contribution to the meal.

Late Winter Carrot Salad (from  Myrica Von Haselberg via Wisconsin Foodie; serves 4-6)

3 lbs carrots, cut lengthwise into pencil-thin sticks
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp of fennel seed
1 tsp of coriander
freshly ground black pepper
2 sweet, fresh oranges
half of an avocado
squeeze of lime juice
finely diced cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the carrots, olive oil and sea salt together and spread on two parchment-covered baking sheets so the carrots are not touching. Roast until the carrots are tender and very dark in some places, approximately 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 1 teaspoon of fennel seed and 1 teaspoon of coriander in a small pan over medium heat. When they darken a bit and smell toasted, transfer to a mortar and grind finely with a pestle. Add a half teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Toss this spice mixture with the carrots when they are finished baking, and set aside.

Cut the peel and white membrane off the outside of the oranges. Then slice crosswise into thin circles.

After removing the carrots from the oven, adjust the oven to 350 degrees and roast 1/4 cup of sliced almonds on a baking sheet until they are golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Dice the avocado into half inch cubes, sprinkle with lime juice and a dusting of salt.

To assemble the salad: start with a large plate or broad, shallow bowl. Spread the carrots evenly over the bottom, allowing them to loop and curl whimsically. Next, sprinkle on the avocado, then the thin orange rounds. Top with a sprinkle of toasted almonds and cilantro. Eat immediately at room temperature, or store in the refrigerator and leave out the avocado until just before serving.

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