Awhile back I taught a cooking class based on several recipes from A Moveable Feast , the PBS/Fine Cooking Magazine. This show, which is its 4th season, features Australian chef Pete Evans (who is really cute and has a lovely Aussie accent) traveling the U.S. visiting chefs, artisan farmers, fishermen, and markets for seasonal and local ingredients. Together they prepare a meal for 20-30 people in a beautiful setting (on the beach, a NYC rooftop, a farm). It’s entertaining, educational, and the scenery is fantastic. It has been a wonderful success. At the cooking class I taught, everyone in attendance raved about the food. Everything was so good, but I think the favorite went to the Baby Carrot Salad with Maché, Yogurt and Thai Chile Vinaigrette. It’s light, easy and a perfect salad for this time of year.
Baby Carrot Salad with Maché, Yogurt & Thai Chile Vinaigrette
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This is a great weekend salad to pair with a steak, chops, a pan~roasted salmon or other meaty fish. The addition of the maché, with narrow, tender, dark green leaves and a tangy, nutlike flavor adds a special touch to the sweetness of the carrots; the vinaigrette has a nice spiciness and fragrance. I love the crunch of the slivered almonds. If you can find multi~colored carrots at your gourmet grocer, they add to the prettiness of the salad, but all orange will work just fine. Make sure that your carrots are super fresh ~ limpness, here. I love to buy carrots with the tops on them either at our Central Market (only in Texas), Whole Foods or at the farmers’ market.
What is maché?
It’s the French name (anything food and French is sure to be good, right?) of an edible salad green also known as corn salad or lamb’s lettuce (because it’s leaves are shaped like a lamb’s tongue). It’s probably one of the most delicate of all salad greens, and unlike some other greens, such as spinach or kale, it’s always served fresh. It forms a loose and wavy rosette of six to eight leaves from its razor thin and tender stems. The stems are lemon lime in color, tender and succulent. The leaves are a key lime green in color, which makes for a pretty salad, especially if you combine it with darker leaved lettuces. It’s velvety to the touch with a melting quality. The flavor is memorably sweet, creamy and nutty. And it’s available year round. If you can’t find maché, a good alternative is Bibb or Boston lettuce.
You could use different chiles in this salad, but the thai chiles are so pretty and give great heat to the vinaigrette. These little peppers are about an inch long and very hot. The green ones are not ripe, becoming red as they ripen, but you eat either one and mix them together for color. You can sometimes find them at the grocery store, but the Asian markets are your best bet. Sweet Shark likes to buy them green and let them ripen on the kitchen counter. Wash them and let them air dry. If you buy a bunch, put them in the freezer and freeze them for later use. They seem to last the whole year. Although, toward the end of the year, they seem to lose the heat. Otherwise, the peppers are as good as fresh. You can grow them successfully in the summer since they like heat and sun. If you can’t find them, we have substituted cayenne peppers from our garden.
Orange Blossom Water
Orange flower water is made using orange tree blossoms and a steam distillation process. The resulting fragrant water has found its way into many culinary uses, especially in eastern Mediterranean cuisines. A drizzle of rose or orange blossom water can add extra depth to what you’re already eating; think: morning yogurt or vanilla ice cream. It’s often used in panna cotta, custard, mousse, rice pudding ~ anything creamy and milky will take on the addition of orange blossom water. Use to sweeten your tea, top sugar cookies, sprinkle over a bowl of berries, or whatever else you can think of. You can buy it online, a gourmet kitchen store, but Walmart even carries it. In the vinaigrette for the baby carrot salad, the orange blossom water acts to temper the Thai Chile and give a wonderful aroma to the salad. There are several different brands, but Sweet Shark keeps this one in his bar for cocktails. (Nielsen~Massey also makes my favorite vanilla extract.) I had to borrow it from him.
Baby Carrot Salad with Maché, Yogurt and Thai Chile Vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ⅓ cup slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar
- ⅓ teaspoon orange-blossom, more to taste
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 small fresh red Thai or other small chile, halved, seeds and ribs removed, and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt
- 16 young carrots (orange or a combination of red, purple, white and yellow), peeled and trimmed
- ⅓ plain yogurt (whole or low-fat)
- 4 cups maché
- FOR THE VINAIGRETTE: Melt the butter in a 10-12-inch heavy frying pan over medium heat until the butter turns brown and has a nutty fragrance; be careful not to burn it.
- Add the honey and swirl the pan to mix with the butter, then add the almonds. When the mixture is bubbling, add the vinegar (the mixture will sizzle and may splatter a bit), and orange-blossom water. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chile and lemon juice and then whisk in the oil until blended. Cool to room temperature and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- FOR THE SALAD: fill a pot ⅔ full with water, add 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Add the carrots and simmer just until tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 8 minutes. Drain and run cold water over the carrots to cool slightly (they should still be warm). Pat them dry and halve each carrot lengthwise. Transfer to a medium bowl and toss with ⅓ cup of the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt.
- Divide the carrots among salad plates. Divide the maché among the serving plates and place on the side of the carrots. Spoon a dollop of yogurt on top of the carrots and drizzle all with the vinaigrette.
Enjoy the salad. Enjoy your weekend. If you’d like some more salad recipes, try these three.
Links where I partied this week (May 12 ~ May 18):