Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Comfort Me with Carrots

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen is the current host of Cook the Books, the bimonthly foodie book club where we read, comment on and cook from the same book. This time round is Ruth Reichl's second memoir Comfort Me with Apples (Tender at the Bone was her first and chronicled her youth as the daughter of legendary book designer Ernst Reichl, although perhaps more ink devoted to her troubled relationship with her difficult mother).

In this volume, the author relates her years in California as she segued from cooking in a hippie restaurant to starting her career as a restaurant critic. Reichl writes very vividly and very honestly. There seems to be no holds barred about dishing about her extra-marital affairs or the exquisite anguish over having to hand over her adopted infant daughter back to the birth parents.

American food seems to have come of age just at the same time Reichl was making her mark in food journalism. She describes her meetings and friendships with so many influential people that shaped modern American cuisine, including  Colman Andrews, Wolfgang Puck, MFK Fisher, Alice Waters, and Bruce Aidells, among others. Such an interesting memoir.

None of the recipes peppering the book particularly grabbed me, but I thought most about how Ruth and her artist husband Doug lived communally at Channing Way in People's Republic of Berkeley in late 70s. Bushy bearded apartment patriarch Nick castigates her new gig as restaurant critic for New West magazine: "You're going to spend your life telling spoiled, rich people where to eat too much obscene food?" You can almost smell the patchouli and alfalfa sprouts.

I was inspired to make a salad that might have appeared on the Channing Way dinner. Carrots are cheap and plentiful all year and would certainly have been available at the local food coop and grocery stores back then. And Nick would probably not have dismissed this dish as being "obscene".

Carrot Salad a la Channing Way

2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch batons
3 Tbsp. snipped chives
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1/4 c. rice vinegar (cider vinegar works here too)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and run through garlic press

Cut carrots into batons of equal size for even cooking. The skinnier part of the carrot will be cut into fourths, while the thicker, root end will be cut into sixths or more.

Bring a pot of salted water to a vigorous boil. Add carrots and bring to a boil again. Cook carrots until they are crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes. Not a minute longer! (they will get mushy). Drain in colander and rinse with cold water. Shake to remove excess water.

While carrots are cooking, mix remaining ingredients. Pour this vinaigrette over the carrots. Cover and let marinate for several hours before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings.

This is a very versatile recipe. You could swap out the parsley for dill or cilantro or ground cumin. Chives and garlic can be substituted for small amounts of chopped red onions or shallots. A teaspoon of fresh grated ginger is also nice.

I brought a version of this Carrot Salad to a Superbowl Party and everyone seemed to appreciate this refreshing break from the rich, heavy snacks at the buffet. I usually think of fresh grated or shredded carrots for a vegetable salad, but cooking the carrots first is a nice change and the carrots get a sweeter, mellower taste.

Deb will have a roundup of all the Comfort Me with Apples posts after the March 30 deadline, so do drop by Cook the Books to check it out then. And feel free to join us in reading our next book,  Robin Mather's The Feast Nearby: How I Lost my Job, Buried a Marriage, and Found My Way by Keeping Chickens, Foraging, Preserving, Bartering, and Eating Locally (All on Forty Dollars a Week). 


Alicia Foodycat said...

I usually make Nigella's carrot and peanut salad if I feel like a carrot salad, but this looks like a really good one!

Deb in Hawaii said...

I don't know why I never think to cook my carrots first before making salad! ;-) It looks fabulous--I love the mustard, herb and rice vinegar combination with the sweet carrots. It does seem very 'Channing Way' too. ;-) Good inspiration.

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

This would also be a great dish for a picnic buffet. Salads can be problematic with their creamy dressings but this salad would be fine.

Delaware Girl Eats said...

I love carrots and think they don't get the exposure they deserve. Great looking and I'm sure tasty salad. Have to try! cathy from Delaware Girl Eats

Claudia said...

Too funny, "You can almost smell the patchouli and alfalfa sprouts." I remember my own food co-op days. What a great idea, I've never cooked the carrots first for a salad. Got to try that.

Unknown said...

People's Republic of Berkley- so true! Salads can be so freeing. Perfect selection! Amy

Unknown said...

oh and BTW, not intentionally, but very delicious, the dacquoise in the book is GF! Enjoy!

Amy said...

The carrot look lovely! What a great inspiration!

Simona Carini said...

I am with you about the recipes (except for the onion soup: I'd like to make that one day). Love your carrot salad: I think it represents well Channing Way.

boeddhamum said...

Oh yes, these carrots sound and look great! It's almost a classic French dish, I love it. I make a similar dish with fresh sage; this makes a nice combination too!
Thank you,

grtz, Linda