Ladies and gentlemen, I am a woman on a mission. Sadly, this mission is neither exciting nor revolutionary. Quite the opposite, it is so common, so quotidian that it wouldn’t bear mentioning if it weren’t for the happy fact that it led me to this wonderfully simple, refreshing staple of a salad.
You see, my former chowhound of a son has become, dare I say it, picky. The great Google tells me this is completely normal, but also not necessarily something he will grow out of naturally, at least not if left to his own devices. (Read: allowed to eat only peanut butter, raspberries, and rice.)
There have been tantrums. There have been tears. There was one dinner consisting exclusively of half a tortilla. My mission? Restore at least a semblance of mealtime order, fast, and ideally not by becoming a short-order cook.
Thus I find myself redoubling efforts to limit random snacking, rereading treatises about how French kids eat everything, and reconsidering my approach to dinner, beginning with a core tenet of French family meals – serving a simple vegetable course first. As in, by itself. For everyone.
Too often, I’ve fallen into the trap of making our vegetable an afterthought to the meal, leading to more limp salads and unadorned bowls of frozen peas than I’d like to admit. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with keeping it simple, I realized I can do more to send my toddler the message that we love veggies and they love us back.Make this simple, refreshing carrot salad & channel the best parts of the French family dinner! Click To Tweet
This particular salad is a French classic, probably well-known to anyone who has spent any length of time in France. But it’s a classic for a reason – once you’ve grated the carrots, it takes about 3 minutes to prepare, it keeps well, and is light, healthy, and delicious. You just feel good about yourself eating it, especially at the beginning of a meal. It’s simple and exciting.
While I can’t say that my toddler morphed overnight into a voracious vegetable hound, or that he has reaccepted very many foods, I can say that the first time I offered this – on its own, at the beginning of dinner – post-picky-phase-onset, he willingly lifted a forkful to his mouth, which is honestly more than I expected. (He used to wolf down carrots, and hasn’t touched one for a couple months now.) So that’s a win in my book!
More tellingly, every person over the age of 1 that I’ve served this to loves it. You’ll probably find yourself taking a small portion for starters, then going back for more – a sure sign of veggie success if ever there was one!
p.s. If you’re interested in learning more about the logistics of implementing a French-style family dinner, I found this blog post super interesting and helpful. I don’t think I can adopt all of this for my family all the time, but there are definitely some useful ideas that I’m adapting with great success!
Simple French Carrot Salad
Yield 4-6 servings
Quick and easy side dishes don't come any more delicious than this French classic!
- 1 lb. carrots, peeled
- 2 tsp. dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- large handful fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
- Grate the carrots and set aside. (A food processor makes quick work of this, if you have one, otherwise use the finest side of a box grater, Moulinex, or other julienne mill.)
- In the bottom of a salad bowl, combine the mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper; whisk to blend. Add the grated carrots and parsley; toss well to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
A common variant is to use red wine vinegar in place of the lemon juice. Try it and see which you prefer!