Let's be real: carrots can be supremely unexciting. For years I'd buy the cello-wrapped carrots in the grocery store, and they'd sit in the crisper, turning flaccid and desperate-looking, until I'd finally put them out of their misery and chuck them, deflated, either into a soup pot or directly into the trash. If I did manage to eat them raw, I'd use them solely as a vehicle for ranch dressing, which I'd then shovel down the hatch with great speed and little affection.
Oh, but how things change. About a year and a half ago, I visited a stunning farm in Huron, Ohio called the Chef's Garden. This place is dedicated to providing fine dining chefs with some of the most unusual, and most beautiful, produce I'd ever seen. (I wrote an article about their affiliated nonprofit, Veggie U, which provides elementary schools with vegetable-growing kits and an earth-to-table science curriculum.) At the Chef's Garden, the herbs, vegetables, and microgreens forced me to look at these foods in a completely different light. Everything, even their carrots (which you see pictured above), sparkled with personality.
Sure, it's easy to buy bulk carrots from Costco and save wads of cash, or to grab the pre-peeled minis to save a few minutes of effort. But if you want a carrot that tastes like the sweet earth it came from, I'd either plant your own or buy them directly from those who do. Seek out weird-looking carrots; often the less uniform in size and more variegated in color, the better the flavor. If they look perfect, they probably aren't.
We're expecting near triple-digit temperatures in Silicon Valley tomorrow so the chances of my cooking something hot are, let me see, roughly, roundabout, zero. This salad will be perfect for lunch, and I plan to shovel it down the hatch without a hint of ranch dressing.
Recipe for Heat Wave Carrot Salad with Lemon Chunks
Refreshing, tart, and citrus-y, this salad does farmers' market carrots proud.
3/4 pound carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1/3 cup toasted pistachios
1/2" nub goat cheese, crumbled with your fingers
1 medium lemon (use a Meyer lemon if you have one)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Shred the carrots, ideally in a food processor. Transfer to a large salad bowl. Stir in the parsley, pistachios, and cheese.
Using a large, sharp knife, cut both ends off the lemon and place it vertically on a cutting board so it is stable. Carefully cut the skin and white pith from the lemon and discard. Now free the lemon segments by inserting a paring knife between the membranes. Cut the segments in half and add them to the salad bowl. (Discard the membranes.) Rescue the wayward lemon juice by scraping it from your cutting board into a small bowl for the dressing. (You should have about 1 tablespoon of juice.)
To complete the dressing, whisk in the oil and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the carrot mixture and stir everything together gently. Finish with an additional grinding of black pepper. Serve cold. On a hot day.