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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Not Your Grandma's Carrot Salad

Not that I have anything against your grandma, but I've just never been a big fan of the whole carrots, mayo, and raisin thing. Granted, I do have a problem with all mayo based salads, but that's my problem, not yours. Nonetheless, this salad is just plain good no matter how you look at it.

Funny, how the best ideas can come from such humble beginnings. About three years ago, I was eating a lot of spinach salads with carrots, feta, and craisins. Invariably, there would always be a little pile of the toppings at the bottom of the bowl that I would scoop up together and eat at the end. I always really enjoyed those bites, so much so that I thought to myself, "Dang, I could eat this without the spinach!" And so a new salad was born.

This is so simple to make and is very pretty and colorful. Very healthy too! Gotta get those orange vegetables in your diet somehow, right? Well, start out by mixing the carrots and the craisins. Don't they look beautiful together?

Then gently toss in some feta. Once the feta is in there, you want to be gentle. If the feta is mixed too hard, it starts to lose the chunkiness and becomes smooshed. Not that it tastes bad this way, it just doesn't look as pretty. I like pretty food. In fact, when I first started making this salad, I used regular balsamic vinegar, and while it tasted great, the brown stained feta was less than appealing looking... white balsamic was a great alternative because it looks and tastes great!

A recent addition to the party is some lardons. Lardons, lardons, lardons. What a great word. So much better than bacon bits, which conjures images in my mind of a very unnatural looking, crunchy product. While I used pancetta here, you could use regular bacon, or omit it all together. But, as far as I'm concerned, everything tastes better with bacon!

After all the salad ingredients are together, mix the dressing and pour over. Again, stir gently. Enjoy! It's one of my favorites!

Not Your Grandma's Carrot Salad
Yield: approx. 4 cups of salad

3 cups sliced carrots, I use the baby cut carrots
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup crumbled, plain feta
1/4 cup lardons (optional)

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp kosher salt
dash ground white or black pepper
1/8 tsp guar gum (optional, helps with emulsion)
2 tsp minced fresh basil
1/2 tsp sugar

Shake the dressing ingredients together in a small jar. Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl. Stir gently to keep from breaking up the feta too much. Add the dressing and stir to mix. Serve immediately.

You can prepare the salad in advance, but, if you do, I strongly advise waiting to dress it until you are ready to eat.

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