Spring Carrot Salad

For all of the decadent posts you've seen here, believe me, I love a good salad.  I'm generally disappointed by restaurant salads, though, which all seem to be the same, and a boring same at that...  House salad with carrots, celery, cucumber and Italian dressing, or else some kind of cranberry, walnut, and goat cheese combo, perhaps with butternut squash, or maybe a maple-glazed something-something.  Yawn.  Don't charge me $13 for that, please, I can make it myself.

My favorite exception to the boring-salad rule is the Insalata Kimba at The Med (The Medici, a couple minute's walk from campus).  It's not the most imaginative combination, but it's simple in a really satisfying, not-boring way: gorgonzola cheese, lightly crunchy croutons (aside: I hate when you have to gnaw on a crouton for a couple minutes before you can actually eat it, it's just like, um, sir, your croutons here are a leetle stale), sliced green apples, little bits of pecan, sliced red bell pepper (another aside: this is the only addition which doesn't make total sense to me, but the rest of the salad redeems this oversight), and pesto vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette really makes it - I'm not sure I would consistently crave this salad without this component, the polygamic marriage of basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  Sometimes I get this salad with grilled chicken too, since, you know, I'm done with that pescetarian life.

Remember when I said my mommy visited and we went grocery shopping?  And remember how I used the carrot tops for a delicious fregola dish?  Well, here are the prettiest little carrots that you ever did see, making a tasty and simple-in-a-not-boring way salad.  Think small, sweet, multi-colored carrots, simply rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and Meyer lemon zest.  Then caramelize that combination quickly in a hot oven.  Then dress some arugula and salty, crumbled Manchego cheese simply with olive oil and roasted lemon juice.  Now put the dressed greens and carrots together.  Now eat it.  Yes?  Yes.  Good.  Now you're happy.

Spring Carrot Salad

2 Meyer lemons
1 bunch baby multi-colored carrots, tops removed (and used for another purpose)
Olive oil
Sea salt
2 handfuls arugula
~2 inch hunk Manchego cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Wash the carrots thoroughly, then split down the middle lengthwise.  Rub with enough olive oil just to coat, then sprinkle with salt and zest of ~1 lemon.  Cut this lemon into quarters.  Lay out the carrots in a single layer on a sheet pan, along with the lemon quarters.  Roast in the oven until the carrots have softened but are still al dente in the center, ~15 minutes.  Rotate pan and flip carrot halves over, same with the lemon quarters, halfway through the roasting process.

Dress the arugula with enough olive oil to coat, and add salt to taste.  Zest half of the remaining lemon over the greens, and crumble in the Manchego.  Slice the other half of the lemon very thinly into rounds, then quarter them and toss with the greens (you can eat Meyer lemons, skin, flesh, and all).  Once the carrots are done, remove the pan from the oven, and squeeze enough of the roasted lemon quarters over the greens to taste.  Arrange the carrots over the salad, and dig in.

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