French

Meet the Crunchy, Super-French Salad We Can't Stop Making

August  6, 2018

My favorite salad these days has nary a lettuce leaf in sight.

During a recent trip to Paris, I found myself wandering around the venerable Le Bon Marché department store, where the selection of high fashion products and quality goods are among the top in the city; but I was most taken with its gourmet market, La Grande Epicerie. Its endless array of charcuterie had me pretty much weeping; each piece of produce seemed like it was made for an oil painting; the confections were (almost) too perfect to eat.

Even the little refrigerated section of prepared comestibles was memorable. Near the takeaway register, it is truly designed with ambitious picnic-goers in mind. Neatly arranged plastic containers of bright bean or vegetable salads line the shelves, with small bottles of bubbly and wine merchandised right alongside. It’s in this section that I came upon the best version of the French classic grated carrot salad, or salade de carottes râpée, that I've ever tasted.

This bright, crunchy, easy-to-throw-together dish is the ultimate in cheap and cheerful eats. In his blog post about carottes râpées, cookbook author and pastry chef David Lebovitz agrees: "I don’t know why, but I do know sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than a simple pile of grated raw carrots, lightly dressed... I resist the urge to add things to this French classic." In Around My French Table, fellow American cookbook author and baking wiz Dorie Greenspan writes about its ubiquity: "When I first went to Paris, carottes râpées, or grated carrot salad, was served at the least expensive student cafés and offered at the priciest take-out shops. Decades later, you can still find the salad just about everywhere."

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This carrot salad certainly is as common as can be, served to French school children from the earliest years. “Growing up, every French kid learns to hate, and then to love, carottes râpées,” explains Louise de Verteuil, Food52’s resident French-American assistant buyer. “They were always on rotation at the school cafeteria, along with celeriac rémoulade and cold beet salad. They were also my mom’s go-to whenever she would stop by the traiteur (delicatessen) in town to pick up an easy side for any dinner or for a light summer lunch."

Smiley, happy grated carrots. Photo by Rocky Luten

An everyday dish for the French, but an unexpected pick-me-up for this American, who, quite frankly, is used to kale every which way for lunch. The piquant vinaigrette is a classic one combining red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and a touch of Dijon mustard. Mixing in some chopped parsley or chives is great for color, but isn't necessary.

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Top Comment:
“It’s really critical to grate the carrots fine, the stuff they sell pre shredded is not good here! I like a heavy hand with the dijon and often i add in some white beans or edamame to make it more substantial. Leftovers the next day are really delicious too!”
— Ttrockwood
Comment

It is just what my palate needed, apparently. I’ve been enjoying the salad chilled with a squeeze of lemon on its own, but it also tastes great atop actual salad greens, in a no-cook summer vegetable wrap, or even in a sandwich. I prefer it after it's had some time to hang out in a cold fridge, where the carrots can mingle with the vinaigrette. I also prefer the carrots grated super duper fine, nearly shredded, but I might be in the minority on this one! Honestly, I don't think I’ve ever enjoyed raw carrots more.

Like most homey recipes, there's bound to be a pro tip, and we've got you covered: “My mom says the salad often calls for more salt than you think, so you need to add it in little by little,” divulges Louise.

Next time your lunch needs a bit of a tangy kick, try your hand at salade de carottes râpée (David Lebovitz's recipe, which lives on his blog, is a great place to start). Let it spend some time in the fridge for a bit before packing it up with other picnic-friendly delights in your oh-so-chic tote (chilled rosé optional). Lunch tastes better already.


More Vegetable Goodness

Have you tried the traditional French grated salad before? Let us know if you're a fan below!

15 Comments

noms October 1, 2018
A number of the banh mi shops around here have julienned pickled carrot as a standard part of the sandwich. I wonder if it's related at all.
 
M August 29, 2018
My Parisian aunt makes a similar salad using celery root. I like it with both carrot and celery root.
 
Luna August 16, 2018
I love the shredded carrot salad at Russian Tea Time in Chicago. Does anyone have a recipe for a Russian version of this? There's definitely coriander in it, but I don't know what else. It's not red wine vinegar. That's all my palate can deduce.
 
Gwen C. August 14, 2018
When I was growing up in our family of 7 kids there was always a pie plate or shallow dish of raw shredded carrots on the table with our main meal. It must have been something our father grew up eating because when we ate over at one of our cousins’ (our Dad had 12 siblings) they also served raw shredded carrots. I guess as kids we were more apt to eat them raw, decorate our mashed potatoes with “orange hair”; whatever made them appealing. They were always the sweet and refreshing veggie component of our big Sunday dinners as well as weeknight suppers. My husband and I are empty nesters and I add golden raisins to ours! You must use a box grater to get the soft and moist result. Enjoy!
 
Dee August 13, 2018
I have been making this for years - it is just grated carrots with vinagrette. My personal touch is to rub the inside of the bowl with a cut clove of garlic and I love using tarragon vinegar in the vinagrette.
 
Rich August 12, 2018
There's no recipe here!
 
Thomas W. August 17, 2018
Finely grated carrots + vinaigrette (of your choice). No recipe needed.
 
Margaret A. August 12, 2018
Agreed! We just returned from Paris last month and this was our lunch every day. Super refreshing on a hot day! I came home and found David Lebovitz’s recipe straight away and have made it weekly since. I have a never-used vintage moulinex found at an estate sale which makes this dish even better and brings me right back to the Monoprix!
 
ASchel August 12, 2018
Click on the slightly bold words, lives on his blog, in the last paragraph for the recipe.
 
elizabeth August 12, 2018
Can't find the link to the recipe!
 
Kat August 12, 2018
All set to try this but can't find a link to the recipe.
 
Alida N. August 12, 2018
Where’s the link to the recipe?
 
Ttrockwood August 9, 2018
I’ve made the recipe from david’s blog you link too many times to count! It’s really critical to grate the carrots fine, the stuff they sell pre shredded is not good here! <br />I like a heavy hand with the dijon and often i add in some white beans or edamame to make it more substantial. Leftovers the next day are really delicious too!
 
Author Comment
Hana A. August 9, 2018
Hi Ttrockwood, thanks so much for your comment! I couldn't agree with you more about the fine grating. I also love to throw things in there like chickpeas and/or raisins. Thanks for sharing your tips. :)
 
Susan M. October 1, 2018
Hana, Can you please give us a clear link to THE recipe? I know others have commented that any dressing will do, but many commenters would like the one that you mention is so good. Thanks