One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

-Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, "Pavarotti, My Own Story"

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ode to Carrot: Carrot Salad with Garlic Yogurt and Walnuts

If there was ever a list made of my favorite vegetables, then the top rank would belong without a doubt to the humble carrot. My mother says that I used to nibble on carrots like a rabbit when I was a baby and even if there is nothing else to eat in the house, I'm happy with a couple of grated carrots and a little vinaigrette. They are a true workhorse in my kitchen, delicious in everything from soups and salads to stir-fries and carrot cakes. Their bright orange color always cheers me up. They contain tons of vitamin A which is great for your eyesight. Oh, just stop reading this post now and eat a carrot!

I've chosen to highlight a simple Turkish recipe today: "yoğurtlu havuç salatası" which translates as carrot salad with yogurt. Consisting of grated carrots slowly cooked in fragrant olive oil with garlic and mixed with walnuts and yogurt, it's a homey recipe that I usually prepare to use up extra yogurt before it goes bad. Similar preparations can be found on tables all across Turkey. I learnt my version from my mom and that, more than anything else, makes this comfort food at its finest. 

Carrot Salad with Garlic Yogurt and Walnuts
Don't worry if you hate the mushy texture of well-cooked carrots. This recipe avoids the sin of cooking them to death. Whole milk yogurt will give the richest taste but even non-fat will do in a pinch. Whatever you do, do not use the packages of pre-shredded carrots from the grocery store. Those have been sitting there for days losing moisture, not to mention the fact that they are grated too thick to give the correct texture. Serves 4 as a side dish.

5-6 medium carrots
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (I like it very garlicky so I use 3.)
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1-1.5 cups plain whole milk yogurt (The amount of yogurt should be approximately equal to the volume of the cooked carrots)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Peel the carrots and grate them using the biggest holes on your grater. 

2. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Don't let the garlic color.

3. Add the carrots and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until a bit wilted and reduced in volume, but still with a slightly toothsome texture. This should take 10 to 12 minutes.

4. While the carrots are cooling a bit, whisk the yogurt in a bowl until it has no lumps. Mix in the carrots and walnuts and chill until completely cool before serving. 

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