My apartment windows look out over Lake Michigan, which is an amazing thing to wake up to every morning (well, that and the traffic on Lake Shore Drive that I get to watch while I drink coffee and sit in my pyjamas . . .). The view gets even better by December, once the leaves are all off the trees in the park and the view of the lake is completely clear through the branches. But, come February, with months of packed snow and ice turning the ground around the empty playground whitish grey against a sky that seems to be dark more often than not, the ice field that used to be the lake can get to be a bit depressing . . . especially when the only things on the horizon to break up the ice and snow are bare trees, a bowl full of brown food just doesn’t make sitting at the dining room table, listening to the wind howl, any easier.

So the search for something, anything, really brightly colored to eat is really the only reason that I can come up with to explain why I’ve spent the last 2 weeks eating nearly four pounds of carrots.   If you ask anyone who’s had a few dozen meals with me what foods I don’t like, carrots would be right up there on the list (somewhere in between lamb chops and any dish that mixes fruit and meat . . . ).  I’ll tolerate them raw (if there’s something to dip them in) and avoid them when cooked (I’ll always take the serving with just potatoes, please), but they were just calling to me this month . . .    

it's not "canning" per se . . . just "putting things in mason jars"

I guess the one big exception is that I’ve always loved the little carrot coins that come in the cans of pickled jalapenos – I used to wish I could buy the cans just to eat the carrot pieces out of them . . . and possibly cook with one or two of the pepper slices if I had a good idea for it.  So I was extremely excited when I started seeing recipes to make my own pickled carrots: they don’t turn out soft like the ones in the cans, but crunchy like the ones you get with the tortilla chips at a real Mexican restaurant.  I’ve used these as a snack during the Superbowl, instead of chips with a sandwich, as part of a salad course when I have guests – they seem to be a hit with people who don’t like carrots, people who don’t like pickles (I know – weird.), and everyone in between.

The rest of my carrots went into a carrot salad.  Now, the only carrot salad I’d ever seen was at summer camp and came with raisins and, I think, mayo, breaking so many of my cardinal rules of food that I don’t even know where to start.  But I was looking for a quick and easy cold salad I could bring to a potluck, and David Lebovitz’s lemon-dressed raw carrot salad sounded pretty awesome.  All in all, it was great on its own, but turned out to be even better as part of a sandwich. 

best sandwich ever? hard to say, as it doesn't have any cheese.

As part of some strange plan I have to eat more, better protein, I found myself with some baked tofu for sandwiches last week, and ended up with some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had: baked tofu, carrot salad, arugula, and a bit of mayo on sourdough (yes, it needs the mayo – otherwise it would be a vegan sandwich and that is completely unacceptable.)  The tofu was savory and felt substantial, the dressing on the carrots was tangy and helped to make sure the sandwich wasn’t dry, and the carrots and arugula added a crunch . . . after stocking my fridge with pickled carrots, having this salad to put on my sandwiches may have changed my mind about carrots after all . . .

 

Easy Pickled Carrots

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into sticks 
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup vinegar (I used cider vinegar, but mixing with white vinegar will make it less sweet)
1/4 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 tablespoons spices (see note)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt

Put the carrots in a heat-proof (non-reactive metal!) bowl.  Bring all the remaining ingredients to a boil in a medium pot, then reduce heat and simmer.  After about 2 minutes, pour over the carrots and cool, uncovered.  Chill, covered, at least a day before eating. 

carrots taking a vinegar bath

 While they’ll be ready to eat after that day, they’ll only get better with time; I think mine are best after about a week.  When stored in their brine an airtight container, they should last at least a month.  If they taste too sharp for your taste, rinse briefly before eating (I actually think they’re much better this way, but it’s a matter of how much you like vinegar).

Note:  Most of the recipes I’ve seen call for fennel seeds or dill seeds here, both of which I’m sure would be great, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who regularly stocks them in their kitchens.  A few springs of fresh dill would work well, but I used herbes de provence, since that was what I had – and it turned out just fine.

Carrot Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
adapted from David Lebovitz
Serves . . . a lot.

1 pound carrots
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
juice of 2 lemons
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper

Peel the carrots.  Either grate with a hand grater or food processor, or peel into long strips with a vegetable peeler (but not too long or it will be . . difficult to eat!).  Coarsely chop the parsley and add it to the carrots. 

Mix the remaining ingredients to make a dressing.  Pour over carrots and parsley. 

Technically, the carrots and dressing should be mixed right before you want to serve the salad.  However, the leftovers I had from my potluck stayed crunchy for a week or so in the dressing.

acceptable carrot salad - no raisins, no mayo, just lemon and parsley. seriously - raisins and mayo?

 

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