Can a salad be a salad without lettuce?
Don’t let this simple salad fool you. The lemon and herbs will surprise and delight. It’s a testament to tasty food that a handful of carefully chosen ingredients that require very little time to prepare can satisfy so perfectly.
Carrots do get a bad rap sometimes. But I like to chalk it up to lousy school lunch memories and intense overcooking episodes.
I remember the first time I crunched on a bowl of raw baby carrots with just a sprinkling of sea salt on top. It dawned on me that certain vegetables simply shine in their raw state.
And so began a journey of experimentation, choosing veggies that are perfect for eating raw, then selecting a host of spices, herbs, and oils to enhance nature’s remarkable bounty.
For this salad, a pairing of tarragon and parsley boost the carrot’s natural sweetness. The tarragon adds a hint of licorice, with the parsley imbuing just the right amount of bitterness into the dish.
We need to give this simple side some serious credit. It hits almost every taste point on your tongue. And to continue my ode to this orange beauty of the root vegetable world, it does a heck of job absorbing the flavors of all the yummy ingredients you pair it with.
You’ll find that the lemon juice gets incorporated easily, and just a little goes a long way.
But like with all raw dishes, your success lies in the quality of your produce. There’s nowhere to hide substandard ingredients here – no heavy sauces or prolonged cooking techniques. And the fewer the ingredients required, the better each one needs to be.
Make sure your vegetables are firm and hard to the touch. And look for any apparent signs of punctures or cracks.
Tarragon leaves should not be flimsy or wilted, as these are signs of age and deterioration. Both will affect the taste.
Parsley packed in bunches can easily disguise mushy or rotting leaves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised to find decaying, yellow leaves hidden among what I thought was a fresh bunch. Don’t be shy, dig in there.
As for lemons, the flavor workhorse of the kitchen, it’ll take some serious mistreatment to get a lemon to spoil. But they do. So feel the skin for an even texture, look for discoloration, and finally, take a sniff. If your nose likes it, so will your tongue.
This also means you’ll need to pay attention to the seasonings, too.
Upgrade to coarse Kosher salt, a choice that you’ll never regret. And if you bought that can of pre-ground black pepper during the last administration, dump it and treat yourself to a new one. Or better yet, invest in a quality pepper mill, and grind it fresh every time, for the best flavor.
Finally, let’s pause for a second and have a chat about extra virgin olive oil. This may come as a shock, but a lot of what’s sold in your typical market is substandard, and labels can be misleading. Don’t shortchange this ingredient. An excellent olive oil is a revelation to the palate that can elevate the plainest of dishes.
Now, go forth, get the best ingredients, and enjoy.Print
Want to try a fresh and vibrant twist on traditional salad? This crunchy lemony carrot version explodes with sweet tarragon and parsley.
- 4 large carrots, grated (about 4 cups)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 Club Crackers or other butter crackers, crumbled (optional)
- Place grated carrots in a large bowl. Add lemon zest and juice, and set aside for 2 minutes.
- Add parsley, tarragon, salt, and black pepper. Fold to incorporate. Set aside for 1 minute.
- Fold in olive oil until completely incorporated.
- Divide into four bowls. Sprinkle a generous amount of crumbled crackers over each serving, if using. Serve immediately.
- Category: Salad
- Method: No-Cook
- Cuisine: Side Dish
Keywords: carrot, tarragon, parsley, lemon, olive oil
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
Wash the veggies and herbs thoroughly, removing any dirt or grit. Using a vegetable peeler, gently peel away the outer skin. You can discard it, or save it for use in homemade vegetable broth. Cut away the stem ends and discard them.
Carefully grate the carrots with the largest holes on a box grater and place in a large bowl.
Alternatively, you can use your peeler to create long, thin strips, or use the shredding disk on your food processor.
Zest and juice the lemon, remove any seeds, and measure out what you need.
Gently chop the parsley and tarragon. Or, julienne the herbs for a prettier presentation.
Prep the crackers, if you will be using them. You can crumble them into a bowl by hand, or place them in a plastic zip-top bag and crush the crackers lightly with a rolling pin.
Measure out the rest of your ingredients, so they will be ready to go when you need them.
Step 2 – Dress Salad
Add the lemon juice and lemon zest to the bowl with the grated veggies, and let sit for 2 minutes. This will allow the lemon juice to saturate the vegetables.
Using a rubber spatula, fold gently to incorporate the ingredients.
Step 3 – Combine Remaining Ingredients, Toss, Garnish, and Serve
Add the parsley, tarragon, Kosher salt, and ground black pepper. Fold gently, and let sit for 1 minute.
Fold in the olive oil and continue folding to incorporate it completely. The herbs should be distributed evenly throughout the mixture, and everything should be coated with the citrus and oil dressing.
This salad will hold nicely for a few hours in the fridge. If left for longer, they will start to release water, so you will need to drain them before serving any leftovers.
You can sprinkle crushed butter crackers on top just before serving, for added visual contrast and crunch. Keebler Club Crackers are recommended, or Pepperidge Farm Golden Butter Crackers. But I like the extra homemade love and flavor from one of Foodal’s own recipes, like buckwheat cheddar or parmesan rosemary!
Can I Use Other Vegetables as a Base for a Simple Salad?
If you have other fresh vegetables in the refrigerator, this crunchy orange veggie aren’t your only option for creating a simple side dish like this one.
The possible combinations are endless! Pick any vegetable that slices or grates easily, and experiment with new combinations of fresh herbs and spices you’ve been wanting to use from your spice rack. Discovering and making new dishes is the best part of cooking. Have fun!
Love root vegetables? Try these other carrot-centric dishes from Foodal next. And don’t forget to let us know how the recipe turned out for you!
- Homemade Carrot Risotto
- Simple Spelt Flour Carrot Cake with Ricotta Frosting
- Roasted Rosemary Carrots with Honey Glaze
Photos by Katherine and Eddie D’Costa, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on March 16, 2009. Last updated March 18, 2020.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
Eddie and Katherine D’Costa are a married professional chef and journalist duo from Atlanta, where they cook up a variety of international dishes, tested for the home cook. Katherine holds an MA in journalism from Northeastern University and Eddie’s professional experience spans 20 years working with Wolfgang Puck, Jean George Vongerichten, and Todd English.