At the New York Culinary Experience a few months ago, I had the pleasure of assisting Chef April Bloomfield in the class that she was giving. During her lessons, she walked students through how to make a few recipes from her book “A Girl and Her Pig.” One of these was this colorful Carrot, Avocado, and Orange Salad, which I made a note to try at home.
I feel as though I’ve been stalking the vendors at the Greenmarket at Union Square, just lurking impatiently for the summer’s multi-hued carrots to appear. Finally, today, I found them and grabbed up a couple of bunches so that I could make this dish. One of the gorgeous visual aspects of this dish is the balance of color with the ruby, ivory, and orange vegetable on the plate with the greens of the cilantro and avocado and the bright-toned orange segments. The spice and oil mixture combined with the roasting technique give this dish additional depth and make the carrots almost seem meaty, with a tangy brightness from the citrus dressing and a cool creaminess from the avocado.
This is a perfect summertime vegetarian side dish for a barbecue or for an evening eating al fresco. Seeing the colorful array of produce on the plate just makes you want to dig in and to eat your way through salad, getting a bit of everything on the fork. If you would like to add a carnivorous component to it, I would suggest a simply grilled piece of protein. This salad is really the star of the meal and should be allowed to take center stage.
I made a few adjustments to the recipe based upon a. my laziness and b. what I had observed during the cooking lesson. I didn’t toast and grind the spices prior to adding them to the carrots (a). Instead, I used already-ground spices and mixed them with garlic I had crushed, the red pepper flakes, the salt, and the oil. Then, as the students had done in the class, I added the mixture to the carrots and used a large pan to roast the carrots on the stovetop until they were soft and had a nice color to them (b).
When cooking the carrots, it is important to remember that the thinner ones will cook much faster than the thicker ones, so you might want to have a plate or tray set to the side to pull out the ones that are thinner so that they don’t burn while you are waiting for the thicker ones still to cook through. The total cooking time on the stovetop is about 15 or so minutes, but it is best to keep a close eye on the pan. You can definitely segment the oranges and make the dressing for the salad in the time that the carrots take to cook.
Orange segments, it’s one of those things that I did several times in culinary school and had to do recently while at a catering gig. One trick I’ve discovered is to use seedless oranges, as the seeds make it more difficult to make clean segments. This is also one of those tasks where you’ll want to sharpen your paring knife before getting started as the sharper it is, the easier it will be to cut around the membrane. I also peeled the orange with a knife, which allowed me to cut away the pith and the peel a little more cleanly.
The recipe calls for being careful when mixing the salad together because the orange segments and avocado have a tendency to break apart as they are delicate. I discovered that the best way to combine everything was to toss it gently all together by using my hands. Then, I used my fingers to plate the dish, arranging it so that there was a bit of each ingredient on the plate. To finish it, I spooned up some of the dressing and drizzled it on top of everything.
Be prepared for you and your guests to want seconds. This salad is so delicious and has such a surprising harmony of flavors that you’ll want to add it to your recipe keeper file. The recipe is available on line at Epicurious.com (click for link).