The French Love Salads!
While growing up in the U.S., my salad repertoire was limited to iceberg lettuce, tomato, and cucumber or eventually a Ceasar salad made with romaine lettuce.
Surprisingly, I discovered a large variety of salads when I came to France. (I’d thought I’d only discover cheeses and desserts).
Every region in France has its own recipe for a salad or two (or more) using different varieties of greens and/or raw or cooked vegetables. The recipes are usually tied to the ingredients grown in that region.
One example would be the Niçoise salad with the local Mediterranean vegetables, olives, and olive oil from Nice.
And then there are salad recipes that are nationwide favorites, like the grated carrot salad.
Everyone adapts it to their preferences and their favorite local ingredients.
So while most Frenchmen will make their carrot salad with a vinaigrette using a neutral oil like sunflower oil, those who live in the South of France will use olive oil.
Traditional old French sayings about carrots
Can eating carrots make you more loveable or just more beautiful?
In English-speaking countries, parents will tell their children: “Carrots will make your hair go curly” or “Carrots will help you see in the dark”.
There are two interpretations of this old French saying: one is that carrots make you more pleasant to be around, and another is they make you more loveable because they make you more beautiful.
The first interpretation was initially referring to people through an example taken from the behavior of…donkeys!
Since donkeys can be stubborn and refuse to move forward when commanded, people entice them by holding in front of their nose a favorite treat: a carrot. Once given a carrot, a donkey is more obedient to commands.
Hence the expression that carrots can make even the most stubborn person (as in “stubborn as a mule”) more pleasant and amiable.
Another explanation comes from an older interpretation of the word “
French folklore believed that since carrots are rich in vitamin C and carotene, which are good for your skin, they could give you a healthy, beautiful complexion.
So, according to folklore, carrots make you more loveable because their nutrients are supposed to make you more attractive.
How to Make Easy, Last Minute French Carrot Salad
What I find wonderful with a French carrot salad is there are so many delicious variations you can make at the last minute.
And if you have a well-stocked pantry, these variations are easy to do because the ingredients are usually the ones you already have on hand.
My go-to favorite recipe is a French carrot salad with cilantro and lemon vinaigrette with a dash of vanilla extract.
I don’t add any sweetener to my vinaigrette like sugar or honey, though the traditional French carrot salad recipe calls for it.
I think carrots are sweet enough naturally and there’s enough sugar in our modern diets already without adding it to our vegetable salads!
Recipe: French Carrot Salad with Cilantro and Lemon Vanilla Vinaigrette
- 1 lb/500 gr peeled carrots
- 2 TB of roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- 3 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 TB of lemon juice (or other citrus fruit juice), according to taste
- 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract or vanilla powder
- 1/4 tsp of fine sea salt
- 1/8 tsp ground pepper
-Grate the carrots finely using a food processor or a box grater and place in a bowl
-Add the chopped fresh cilantro to the carrots and toss together
-Dissolve the vanilla extract, salt & pepper in the lemon juice and whisk in the olive oil
-Pour the vinaigrette over the carrot mixture and toss until evenly distributed.
-Let marinate for 15 minutes and toss again before serving. Cumin powder is also a nice addition to this recipe.
It will also come in handy if you run out of ideas or time for a starter or side dish.
Carrots can be grated in advance and kept plain, without vinaigrette, in a container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
And now you: Do you have any favorite carrot salad recipes? Send me an email and let me know!
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com