I recently realized that one of the main things lacking from my winter diet was a crunch. Think about it. So many classically winter foods are soft or creamy—either in their natural state (citrus; fresh pasta) or rendered that way by braising, roasting, mashing, simmering and pureeing. Winter cooking has a way of transforming the most rock-hard of ingredients—rutabaga; butternut; dried beans—into creamy, velvety dishes. And all that smooth, warm savoriness was lovely for the six months that are Chicago’s winter, but I’m ready to move on. Forget al dente, I want a real crunch.
And that’s where this salad comes in. It couldn’t be simpler and it involves spring vegetables—spindly carrots; magenta radishes; delicate scallions—that should be creeping into your market soon, if they haven’t already. The scallions are slivered and the carrots and radishes are sliced into disks as thin and colorful as tulip petals. These are tossed in the simplest of vinaigrettes: lime juice, excellent olive oil, kosher salt. Finally, fold in a handful of minced cilantro, allowing it to distribute throughout the salad like green confetti. Let it sit for ten minutes or so, to let the flavors mingle.
Then, eat it how you wish. In the 36 hours after I invented the salad, I ate the salad (1) tucked into a warm tortilla, along with spice-rubbed slices of pork tenderloin; (2) straight up; (3) atop a pile of arugula, along with some crescents of buttery avocado. With each helping, I reveled at the crunch, crunch, crunch—a robust workout for my previously-hibernating molars.
Really, this salad is the whole package in terms of things that winter food is not: crunchy, as I’ve mentioned; cool; bright; light; colorful. I’d even go as far as to call it zingy. I challenge you to find a zingy mashed potato, or a colorful, crunchy one. Just try.
And all of this is precisely why I intend to make this salad over and over again in the next few weeks. Even if there’s snow on the ground, I want spring in my mouth.
Carrot-Radish Salad with Lime & Cilantro
3 cups thinly sliced, trimmed and peeled carrots
1 cup thinly sliced, trimmed radishes
1 cup thinly sliced, trimmed scallions
1 lime, juiced
extra virgin olive oil, to taste (about 1 tablespoon)
kosher or sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup minced cilantro
Place the carrots, radishes and scallions in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, oil and salt. Pour the lime mixture over the carrot mixture; toss to coat. Fold in the cilantro. Allow to sit, at room temperature or in the fridge, for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve cold or at room temperature, with a sprinkling of salt, if desired.