Tag Archives: French Food

my favorite way to eat a carrot

avocado-carrot-crop

When I lived in France, I learned how to make salad dressing (aka la vinaigrette) from scratch, and it was a revelation. Almost any vegetable, raw or cooked, can be dressed with vinaigrette and be so much the better for it (at least in my book). A popular salad on French lunch tables is carottes rapées (that’s grated carrots, not raped carrots, although I once had a French tutor who confused these faux amis during a lesson at her house, asking her husband if he could please rape the cheese for their dinner quiche…)  I’ve never been a huge fan of carrot sticks, or of carrot coins in a salad, but grated carrots may as well be a different vegetable entirely.  I can eat great big mounds of them, and they are one of the few vegetables I prefer raw.

shredded-carrots-cropHere’s an informative blog post by French food maven David Lebovitz on the cultural/ culinary significance of carottes rapées.  He also links to his method of preparing them, which is simplicity itself: lemon, parsley, maybe a little olive oil.  My crème fraîche version is admittedly a little less “pure”, but I did serve it to a Frenchman once who exclaimed excitedly “Ah j’adore les carottes rapées!” and promptly ate most of the bowl, so I feel somewhat confident in saying that, although different, my method is still acceptable.

While you can certainly serve this salad on its own, I love to make a first course out of it by mounding it into the center of an avocado.  It’s a little more luxurious, and somehow it has a sort of retro appeal.  You can either peel the avocados (if they’re the correct ripeness, the skin should easily peel right off) or leave them in their shells and let people scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

salade de carottes rapées en nid d’avocat/ grated carrot salad in an avocado nest

(preinter-friendly version)

Serves 8 as a first course; adjust measurements for smaller or larger crowds

4-6 carrots
4 ripe avocados
2 tbs crème fraîche (or substitute 1 tbs sour cream + 1 tbs plain yogurt)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, optional
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
some finely chopped parsley to garnish (I didn’t have any the day the photos were taken, and your salad certainly won’t be ruined without it, although it is a nice touch.  If you really like parsley, use more and mix it right in with the carrots.)

carrot-dressing-toss

Notes:  As with almost all salads and salad dressings, I implore you to taste as you go and adjust as necessary- the measurements are intended as guidelines only.  If you don’t do dairy, this dressing can easily be made without it; just increase the olive oil and lemon proportionately.  Most vinagrettes use a much higher oil to acid ratio, but I find that because carrots are so sweet, they can stand up to a dressing that is quite tart.  When everything comes together, it should be well-balanced.  Also, if serving with avocados, their fatty blandness balances the extra tartness from the lemons.  Don’t fear the sour!

Directions: Make the dressing: in a medium bowl, combine the crème fraîche, mustard, and olive oil; whisk together until well combined.  Whisk in the lemon juice until fully incorporated, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  If using the garlic, smash the clove and put it in the dressing to infuse.

Peel 4 carrots and grate on a box grater or in the food processor.  When ready to serve, fish out the garlic and discard, and toss the carrots in the dressing until fully coated.  If serving with the avocados, it’s ok if the salad is a little “over-dressed”, because you need a little extra so the avocado isn’t bland.  If you’re just serving the carrots on their own, however, you may want to add a couple more carrots or reduce the quantity of dressing.  If you over-dress the salad, or let it sit too long before serving, the carrots will get soggy.  (Heaven forbid this should happen, but if it does, take comfort in knowing that pieces of baguette are the perfect vehicle for sopping up the extra juice.)

Halve the avocados, remove the pits, and if they don’t sit still, remove a small sliver on the bottoms so they don’t roll around.  Mound the carrots in the hollow, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

le petit zinc: a little taste of france in corktown

le-petit-zinc-rooster1As part of Marvin’s job as the managing photographer at Model D, he is responsible for illustrating their Development News section. It’s basically a round-up of short news stories on recently opened small businesses in Detroit, or anything else related to business growth in the city. The nice thing about this is that I’m always one of the first to know when a cool new restaurant opens its doors!

lpz-interior-mirrorCorktown has been buzzing lately with the addition of the Mercury Coffee Bar, Mudgie’s (a sandwich joint in the building that used to house Eph McNally’s), and now Le Petit Zinc, a tiny café/restaurant on Howard St. just west of Trumbull. Serving sweet and savory crêpes, sandwiches, salads and pastries, it’s perfect for a light (and inexpensive) breakfast or lunch. The space is small but the bright color scheme makes it seem open and inviting rather than cramped.

ham-cheese-crepe1We showed up for breakfast but too hungry to just have pastries, so Marvin had a ham and brie crêpe and I had the “Poulet-Ratatouille”, filled with ratatouille (eggplant, squash, tomato) and pieces of what tasted like rotisserie chicken. The savory crêpes come with a small side of organic green salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. Also on the menu are a variety of sandwiches and salads (and a charcuterie plate- yum) that all looked good- I will be returning soon to try these. Our coffee was excellent- Marvin got a big bowl of café au lait, and I got a black coffee that was made fresh to order (I believe it was made Americano-style, by adding hot water to espresso, which I do at home all the time).

cafe-au-lait2Overall, Le Petit Zinc has a lot to recommend itself- a cheerful atmosphere, a solid, inexpensive menu, and a friendly proprietor behind the zinc (bar). In warmer weather, patrons will be able to sit outside in an enclosed courtyard.  The restaurant does not yet have a liquor license, but you are welcome to bring your own wine or beer until they do. (Update: the patio is open, and looks fabulous!  Also, please note that there is a small “recycling fee” for those bringing their own alcohol.)