This recipe comes to you via southern Portugal and always reminds me of spring. Think of this dish as more of a small plate or toothpick-able addition to a picnic or grazing spread rather than a formal side dish or starter salad. The sweetness of the carrots balances perfectly with the light sour of the vinegar. For those of you that are considering lamb for Easter these also pair very well as a small side with fatty or braised meats to add some brightness.
Algarve Carrot Salad
American Vinegar Works
1 bunch of sweet carrots
3 tablespoons of Better Than Champagne Chardonnay Vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of paprika (sweet - NOT smoked, NOT hot)
1-1/2 tablespoons of nice olive oil
1 large bay leaf, broke in half
1 garlic clove, very thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons of roughly chopped, flat-leaf parsley
Salt to taste
Peel and cut carrots into rounds that are about ¼ inch thick.
Boil carrots in salted water (think pasta) until they are just done and can be pierced by a fork—if in doubt undercook so you don’t end up with mushy carrots. Drain carrots well and add to a deep, narrow bowl.
In a small cup mix vinegar and paprika, then mix in olive oil. Ingredients are super important but fight the urge to use that high-end Spanish smoked paprika—the two stars here are the sweetness of the carrots and the acid of the vinegar, the smoke gets in the way.
Dump this mixture over the still warm carrots and add the bay leaf, parsley, and garlic. Mix carefully so as not to damage the carrots. Let this mixture sit for at least an hour, ideally two, and mix from the bottom of the bowl a few times so that all the carrots have equal access to the herbs and vinegar mix.
Taste and adjust salt and vinegar as needed. It is best to wait until this point to adjust the salt/vinegar as the flavor will evolve during the 2-hour resting period. This is not a jardineira/pickle, the vinegar flavor is important but it should be in balance with the herbs and garlic. You also are not going for ‘sauce’—the liquid should be just enough to soak into the carrots and leave them wet, not drowning.
The carrots are now ready to go. You can also make ahead and refrigerate the carrots overnight. Just let them come close to room temperature before serving so you don’t have coagulated olive oil on them.
A note on vinegar—traditionally this would be a wine vinegar and I think Chardonnay is the best match but the Junmai Rice Wine, as well as the Pear and Apple would both work well. I have this inkling that the IPA Beer Malt Vinegar would also be great but I haven’t tried so you will have to let me know how/if it works.