The most emblematic salad of the French café is “carrottes rapées,” or that seemingly banal but amazingly delicious creation that is basically made of grated carrots. And not much else.
Carrots Can Be the Star
How can grated carrots be so good? Well, it’s all in the choosing of the carrots. When you’ve got good, fresh, crisp, sweet carrots that were recently taken from the ground, your dish is practically made. Combine it with that other French bit of brilliance, the vinaigrette, add a few capers, some tarragon, and you’ve got something special to serve and enjoy!
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This salad has additions that make it extra special, and turn it into a substantial first course or a happy main course, one that is just right for the season. Because it is summer, there are tomatoes, and I choose to use either simple round ones, or firm plum tomatoes because they’re not too juicy and have wonderful flavor. And then I top the salad with albacore packed in oil, which gives the salad that little “je ne sais quoi” which surprises and gives it a bit more substance. Not to mention flavor!
First or Main Course
If you order carrottes rapées at a café, they are a first course, or part of a plate of “crudites,” also intended to begin a meal. Here, if you’d like to serve this salad as a first course, serve small portions and serve a grilled steak, roast chicken, or whatever your heart desires afterwards. Be sure to serve this right after you make it so the carrots stay nice and crisp, and serve it with a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc.
Cheese for After
If this salad is your main course, then serve some beautiful cheese afterwards, for a great and substantial meal, a la française!
Red and Orange Salad
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon;75ml olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups canned albacore packed in oil
- 4 large carrots peeled and finely grated
- 1 tablespoon capers soaked and drained, or simply rinsed and drained
- 2 scallions trimmed, white and green parts cut in thin rounds
- ½ cup;5g fresh tarragon leaves, or to taste
- 3 or 4 plum tomatoes cored and cut in 1/2-inch (1.25cm) thick rounds
- For garnish:
- Tarragon sprigs
- Fleur de sel -- optional
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the garlic and whisk together.
- Place the fish in a medium sized bowl. Pour half the vinaigrette over the tuna and mix thoroughly so all of the tuna is moistened.
- Just before serving, place the carrots in a large bowl and add the capers, scallions, and the tarragon and toss, toss, toss. Pour on all but 1 tablespoon of the remaining vinaigrette and toss some more, until all is thoroughly combined.
- Mound the carrots on a serving platter, arrange the tuna on top, and surround the salad with the rounds of tomato. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the tomatoes and garnish the salad with a sprig of tarragon. Sprinkle with fleur de sel if desired and serve immediately.