I have terrible vision, and my mother was always convinced that if I just ate enough carrots, I would one day no longer be nearly legally blind. She’d bombard me with zip-top pouches of shriveled baby carrots at every turn—tucked into the cup holder of the car, or hidden in my backpack. Because of this, it’s taken me a long time to bring carrots into my adult life, but as a dedicated eater, I knew I couldn’t hold on to my anti-carrot bias forever.
So I decided to make a carrot salad that even I can get down with, moving beyond crudités with sweet and colorful market carrots prepared in two ways. This multi-pronged approach brings a variety of flavors and colors into the salad, making the most out of this humble vegetable.
First, I shave the carrots with a peeler to make tender strips that easily twirl onto a fork. Next, I quick-pickle the remaining core for a crunchy and tangy addition. It’s all tossed in a dressing of ghee and yogurt and studded with tart barberries, for a simple and flavorful salad that even the most avid carrot-hater can enjoy.
I start by washing and scrubbing my carrots, using a paring or tourné knife to dig out any dirt trapped between the crowns of the carrots and the tops. I like to keep an inch of the top attached, both for color and for the grassy flavor it brings to the party.
While holding each carrot flat against the cutting board, I use a vegetable peeler and moderate pressure to peel away long and thin strips. I continue peeling each carrot, rotating after each strip to maintain an even shape, until just the core remains.
The carrot strips are covered with a damp towel to keep them fresh and moist, while the carrot cores are split in half lengthwise, then tossed in a shallow dish or pie plate along with a few sprigs of fresh dill. Here’s a good place to add some extra spices if you’d like; coriander, celery salt, and peppercorns are all great additions to complement the carrots' earthy sweetness.
Next, I prepare a simple quick-pickling liquid in a small saucepan. The basic ratio I use is 3:2:1:0.5—three parts water, two parts vinegar, one part sugar, and one-half part kosher salt. It’s so easy to remember, it allows me to pickle in a pinch. Once the mixture comes to a boil and the salt and sugar have dissolved, I pour it over the carrots and dill and let them hang out for at least an hour, but it’s even better to let them sit overnight.
You’ll have a lot of pickle brine left over after making this salad. I like to reuse it for more quick pickles by amping it up with additional salt and sugar if needed.
For the dressing, I start by melting ghee or butter over medium heat, then adding a cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and star anise to gently flavor the fat. I toast until the spices are aromatic, taking care not to fry the bay leaf, which can become bitter and acrid if overheated. Once the ghee is lightly scented, I remove the whole spices.
While the ghee is still shimmering and hot, I toss in a couple spoonfuls of barberries to fry and swell in the fat. Barberries are tiny and tart berries found in many Iranian dishes, such as zereshk polo, a fluffy basmati rice pilaf loaded with floral saffron and nutty ghee. Their itty-bitty size makes them easy to toss into anything that needs a pop of acid.
If you can’t find barberries, unsweetened dried cranberries or cherries can substitute in a pinch. You’ll just need to chop them into smaller pieces to approximate the little bites of barberry.
I then transfer the ghee and barberries to a large bowl and whisk in some full-fat Greek yogurt and a couple spoonfuls of the pickling liquid, then season it up with salt and pepper. I add the carrot strips and gently toss to coat with the yogurt dressing. To finish the salad, I lift the pickled carrots out of the brine and fold them into the delicate curls, along with some more dill.
Now, finally, these are some carrots that I can get into—tart, creamy, and full of fresh crunch. My mom can rest assured knowing I’m getting some beta-carotene, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to take these glasses off.