No-Mayonnaise Carrot Salad
Do you have a food phobia? I’m not talking about just a normal dislike or won’t-eat. I mean, do you have something that actually strikes terror in your heart and makes you gag when thinking about it or even coming within 100 yards of the smell of it? That is me with any kind of mayonnaise-heavy salad dish. You know the ones I mean. They lurk on the tables at Boy Scout potlucks, show up menacingly at soccer picnics, and loiter at neighborhood barbecues, trying to squeeze in next to the potato salad.
There’s a series of these salads which date from my 1970s childhood (separate from the sequence of equally-disliked Jello salads). Ambrosia Salad, Waldorf Salad, and the one that I probably despise most of all, although it is tough to pick just one, Carrot Salad. Part of my dislike is that I’m not a big fan of raisins in things, which I now know is not that uncommon. Then, there’s the whole globs of processed mayonnaise, which I also can’t stand as I’ve mentioned before. So, put those two things together alone and the dish is not likely to be a hit with me. Carrots, I think, are the innocent bystander in all of this, as I like those raw or cooked.
At a baby shower a couple of years ago, I was introduced to a whole different kind of carrot salad, one I could actually enjoy. There were bits of sweet dates amongst the crunchy, shredded carrots instead of the dreaded raisins. Toasted almonds, one of my favorite things, added a heartiness, and the chopped fresh cilantro brought an herbal brightness to the mix. In place of the goopy mayonnaise was a light, smokey cumin-based vinaigrette. My tastebuds were so happy that at last I could be freed from the horror of the carrot salads of the past!
As it was such a hit, this recipe was quickly added to the keeper file after it was emailed around to everyone. I’ve adapted the recipe somewhat and added some more instructions from the original. With the temperatures set to reach record highs today, something cool, crisp, and refreshing, like this salad, seemed to be perfect. The components can be prepared in advance, with the dressing added at the last minute, to keep everything fresh and crunchy. The flavors would pair well with grilled meats or fish or it could be part of a vegetarian meal or mezze set-up, something else that would be a great solution for a no-cook dinner.
Annette’s No-Mayonnaise Carrot Salad
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Serving Size: 4-6
1/4 cup blanched slivered Almonds
2 cups grated Carrots (3 large carrots, approximately)
1/2 cup chopped Dates (about 8 of them)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro
1 Tbsp white wine Vinegar
2 tsp. Honey
1 tsp. ground Cumin
1 pinch Salt
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Put almonds in one layer on a baking tray and toast until golden brown, about 5-10 minutes (check them after 5 minutes to see how they are doing).
In the meantime, grate the carrots and chop the dates and cilantro. Put these ingredients into a bowl and toss to combine. In a separate bowl, put in the vinegar, honey, cumin, and salt. Add the olive oil to the vinegar mixture in a steady stream while stirring with a whisk until completely incorporated.
When the almonds are done, set them aside to cool while assembling the rest of the ingredients. If preparing in advance, wait until the last minute to mix everything together so that the salad doesn’t become mushy. If serving right away, pour the dressing into the carrot mixture and toss to combine. Sprinkle the almonds on top.