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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Piquant Carrot Salad

I love being able to use unusual words to describe some slightly out of the ordinary dishes. If you do an internet search for "carrot salad,"  dozens of sites will pop up, almost all including a can of tomato soup, yet I can't remember when I have seen this served at a potluck or at anyone else's home.

Perhaps it is the size of most of these recipes that keeps them unused. Years ago, way before there even was an internet, I received a similar recipe from my sister, Alice, and our family loved it whenever I made it. "Whenever" wasn't very frequent, however, because her recipe called for four pounds (!) of carrots.  Not only did it seem to last forever, I didn't have a processor at the time, so slicing all those carrots by hand made this a very infrequent visitor to our table.

This week, however, I was reminded of that salad when I discovered that I had plenty of carrots (on sale, two pounds for 69 cents a few weeks ago at my go to supermarket a few weeks ago) and I was looking for something a little more tart and tangy than a tossed salad to go with scalloped potatoes.

Since I no longer buy condensed soups (another story for another time), I didn't have any tomato soup, but I also wanted to do some scaling down of the recipe. Ketchup seems to share much of the same sweetness of most canned tomato soup, so I thought I'd start from there. The result? Something that is really, really good (is a cook allowed to be so bold in her bragging?) and a perfect change of pace from coleslaw or plain old pickles when you want something sweet and sour to top off the meal.

Carrot Salad

1 to 1 1/2 pounds carrots, thinly sliced--go with the larger amount if you prefer not to have dressings overwhelm your salads
1 large green pepper, diced
1 medium to large white onion, cut in thin rings

1/4 c cider or red wine vinegar
1/4 c sugar
3 T canola oil
1 to 2 T ketchup
1/2 t seasoning salt
1 t dry mustard
1/4 to 1/2 t black pepper

1.   Prepare the green peppers and onions and set aside.

2.   Place the carrots in a very large microwave-safe bowl or casserole, spreading as evenly as possible. Add a tablespoon or two of water, cover, and cook on high power 4 to 7 minutes. Stir about half way through and check for tenderness. I like mine quite crispy, but you may want yours a bit more cooked, so the times may vary. I sliced the carrots in my processor so they were very thin. If you hand cut them, they will probably need a little more time to cook.

3.   While the carrots are cooking, stir together the dressing ingredients in a glass jar or plastic container with a tight lid. Shake until well blended.

4.   Remove the carrots from the microwave and immediately fold in the peppers, onions, and dressing. Stir well, taste and adjust for seasoning, and chill for at least two to three hours.

This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for at least a week.

A Pie as Bright as Spring

This year's early spring weather begs for a bright and sprightly dessert. With my favorite budget supermarket (four letters starting and ending with vowels!) featuring green grapes and oranges at really bargain prices, it was time to pull out this dessert that is not as hard as it looks, and its looks are pretty spectacular.

I used a quick pie crust recipe that goes together quickly, in the same pan you will bake the pie in, but this could be made even more quickly with a purchased pie shell. The rest of the recipe is completed in the microwave, and total prep time other than the crust is not much more than 15 to 20 minutes. The link to the pie filling recipe is here:

Green Grape Pie and Raspberry Pie

One change that I made this time--I added about two teaspoons of finely chopped orange peel to the glaze layer for an even more intense orange flavor.

And the crust, if you want to make your own quickly:

Pat in the Pan Piecrust and More

With the grapes at 95 cents a pound and oranges in a four pound bag for $1.49, this was a very inexpensive dessert and a refreshing change from some heavier meal enders.