Spring and summer bring a bounty of beautiful produce here in Northern California. I always think about how to prepare them in less expected ways, using the power of herbs, spices and flavors from around the world. In a recent class I taught about all the ways to enjoy spring vegetables, of the many dishes we prepared, one of the standout surprise hits was this grated carrot salad. (The recipe was adapted from my beloved and now-defunct Lucky Peach Magazine.)
Yes, it looks just a pile of grated carrots, but it’s absolutely delicious and demonstrates several cooking maxims: 1) The simplest recipes are often the best; 2) How a vegetable is cut makes a difference in flavor; 3) The Indian method of tempering spices in oil to release aromatics is a simple technique that has a big impact on flavor; and 4) This is an example of a dish in which the flavors will only improve with time, making it a great potluck dish. The trickiest ingredient to obtain is the curry leaves, which you’ll have to get from an Indian market.
Trust me: it’s worth it. If you make a trip to get some, get extra and either freeze or dehydrate the rest for later use. There’s really no substitute for the unique flavor of curry leaves, but if you absolutely cannot get them, I would substitute a half cup of chopped cilantro to this salad (but do not add to the oil, use fresh). So time to get out your box grater and get to work! Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants. Mustard seeds are an excellent source of selenium and a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and manganese. Curry leaves are thought to be anti-inflammatory.