Thursday, May 22, 2008

Kids Make Carrot Salad with Toasted Soy Nuts and Asian Flavors

Here's a lesson in how guacamole turns into carrot salad.

I had every intention of showing the kids in my "food appreciation" classes how to make a classic guacamole. The plan was to use some of the ripe avocados that have been on prominent display at the local Whole Foods lo these past few weeks. But of course when I arrived at the Whole Foods to purchase the ripe avocados--oh, maybe an hour before class was scheduled to begin--that big display of avocados had completely disappeared, replaced by a new display of utterly green and rock-hard avocados usable maybe next week.

Quick! Think of something seasonal, something we can make in less than an hour! I scanned the produce department and my eyes landed on carrots. Carrots have many virtues, one of them being they don't have to be cooked to be good. They also get the kids involved in peeling and grating. So a carrot salad seemed the logical choice.

As the idea of a carrot salad began to take shape, I decided this would also be a good opportunity to find some sort of substitute for the walnuts I normally put in my carrot salad. We don't use nuts at school because of allergies, and I've been talking with the kids lately about things we might use to add a healthful crunch to our dishes that won't send anyone to the hospital. A visit to the bulk section turned up toasted soy nuts. To be honest, I have never used toasted soy nuts before. This was good a time as any.

I had already planned to use lemon in the salad, then started to lean Asian because I like the way lemon and rice vinegar go together. I picked up a bottle of mirin, to add sweetness. And when I arrived at school and scanned the contents of our pantry, I found a wee bit of toasted sesame oil in the cupboard. From there we tentatively improvised our carrot salad dressing, measuring some of this and some of that, and finally tossed it all together.

1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup toasted and salted soy nuts
1/2 cup black raisins
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons mirin
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Toss carrots, soy nuts and raisins in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, rice vinegar, mirin, sesame oil and salt. Pour dressing into carrot mix and toss thoroughly. Serve room temperature or slightly chilled.

Note: Mirin is a classic condiment and seasoning in Japanese cuisine, typically sold in the Asian section of most supermarkets. It is very sweet, and usually contains alcohol. The version we used contains 8 percent alcohol.

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