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The other day was one of the first days that truly felt like spring, and somehow I almost went home from the farmer’s market empty-handed. That morning when I walked through the market to get to my subway station, the square was overflowing with vendors selling all kinds of colorful vegetables– lettuces, roots, leafy things, and fruity bits, all waiting to be tossed together into a salad in the sun and warmth. It had been raining, but it lent the air a thoroughly spring quality– it made you want to spent time outside and eat things fresh out of the ground. Maybe, then, that’s why when I went back through the market on my way home from work that all of the vegetables were gone. There was still meat, cheese, bread, and even a good number of apples for sale, but I was disappointed– due to the spring fever that had taken hold of me, all I had been looking forward to all day was a big bunch of leafy spring greens. And then, as fate would have it, as I started to leave the market towards home, I was enveloped by an earthy-sweet smell of fresh carrots. How often does that happen?
The carrots smelled so good that I had to buy them, but I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. My mom suggested that I make her favorite carrot salad, and I wanted to. The only problem was that she didn’t have the recipe and hadn’t eaten it for years, and I had never tasted or seen it before. But the way she described it painted it as the perfect remedy for my spring fever, and so with only a vague list of ingredients, no measurements, and only my mother’s memory of this dish, I set out to create a spring fever cure.
In all honesty, I am not sure that I ended up with anything that resembles my mom’s carrot salad but, in my humble opinion, the salad that I made is really, really great. It’s light and refreshing, it’s more than kind of addicting, and I might end up eating it every day for the next month. It cured my spring fever and gotten me ready for the warm weather to come. And although all of these are great things about it, possibly the best things are that it is incredibly easy to make and you can (and probably should) make it ahead of time.
I do have one warning about it, though: the ingredients list looks a bit… suspect. Go ahead and look at it now and get your weird feelings about mayonnaise out of the way. I understand because I had them too– when my mother first told me what goes into the salad over the phone, my immediate reaction was, “Ew.” I even said it out loud. It sounded gross and thick and heavy. I promise, though, that the mayonnaise in this salad may go in as the typical store-bought product, but transforms when you let the salad sit overnight. Letting your finished product sit for a few hours or overnight in the fridge lets the juices seep out of the carrots and mix with the mayonnaise, forming this lovely, light, slightly creamy, carroty dressing. I wouldn’t have even guessed that there was mayo in it if I hadn’t made it, and I bet that even you mayo-haters out there would love this salad. I also bet that some of you are having spring fever even worse than I am in this lovely weather. So what’s stopping you? Go help yourself– I promise, this salad is the cure.
Spring Fever Carrot Salad
About 3-4 large carrots (should yield about five cups of carrot ribbons as described below)
1/2-2/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Wash and peel your carrots, making sure to clean all of the dirt off. Once cleaned, continue using the vegetable peeler to cut the carrots into ribbon strips. Be careful, because the skinless carrot will be slippery.
I found that the easiest way to do this was to hold the carrot perpendicular to a cutting board (standing upright) and, while holding the top of the carrot, sliding the peeler from the midsection of the carrot down to the cutting board. Once your workspace gets too cluttered, transfer the carrot ribbons to a large bowl.
Cut the carrot down until you reach its core, which is slightly yellower than the meat around it. I found that the core part was delicious for eating as a snack while cooking but was difficult to cut into ribbons. Peel all of your carrots in this way.
Once all of your carrot ribbons have been added to your bowl, add 1/2 cup of raisins, mix well, and taste. The more raisins you add, the sweeter the salad will be. If 1/2 cup of raisins is not sweet enough, continue to add more until the sweetness is to your liking, keeping in mind that the raisins will release some of their sugar into the dressing while resting.
Mix the mayonnaise thoroughly into your carrot and raisin mixture. I generally have trouble thoroughly mixing large amounts of chunky objects, so I did this mixture in parts as follows: transfer half of your carrots and raisins into a second bowl. Add half of the mayonnaise into your original large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add half the remaining carrot and raisin mixture to the large bowl with half of the remaining mayonnaise and, again, mix thoroughly. When this is done, add the last of your carrots, raisins, and mayo to the large bowl and make sure that everything is well incorporated.
Let the salad sit overnight in your refrigerator to allow the carrot juices and mayonnaise to mix. Serve chilled, put your feet up, and get ready for spring to come.