Crudité cranked up. This is not your ordinary raw carrot appetizer. It's not a big hunk of veg that is hard and hard to bite into. And no dipping in some ranch dressing either. This is amped up, vamped up crudité. Now, admittedly I can't take full credit for this recipe. But imitation is the best form of admiration and also serves to inspire, which is what Giada De Laurentiis did. In her version, she used prosciutto to wrap these bathed shredded carrots.
I have made it her way many a time, often using Serrano ham instead. Each time I placed this salty and sweet combo out, they were gobbled up, leaving but spotted remnants of basil and a shred of carrot as evidence of their existence. I highly recommend trying it that way. They make the cutest little bundles and provide some vegetables to the meat lovers.
Bathing the carrots in balsamic and basil is brilliant and elevates the simple carrot to its kicked up crudité status. Shredding the carrots is also genius as it does two things. It maintains the crisp rawness of the carrot but makes them more manageable to eat. You definitely won't feel like you'll crack a tooth biting into one of these. Second, the strands lend themselves to be wrapped, creating a more elegant bite. And it's a this point that I began to alter the recipe, coming up with other outer coat wrappings. During the summer months, I used a long slice of English cucumber. Served alongside oil doused fennel, this created a very refreshing bite indeed. I've also tweaked the original recipe not only by what I cloak them with but the dressing as well.
So when a recent gathering required another appetizer, I pulled from my "appetizer archives" and was reminded of these shredded carrots. Certainly I could have rolled them with Prosciutto or Serrano but I had plenty of meat offerings already. Just how much do the carnivores need? I say there needs to be balance on a table. Balance is key. You want some warm options, room temp ones, meat, and even fresh, raw options from which your guests can pick and choose. I always try to provide a variety, and given that some of my guests, including myself, are veg/pescatarians, offering up vegetarian options is mandatory. For this shindig, I needed the addition of a refreshing, easy to pick up vegetable plate. Cranked up crudité to the rescue. Being wintertime I didn't feel the cool cucumber coat would be appropriate. Hmm, what is long, vegetarian and can roll? No, not a yogini. Enter the ubiquitous zucchini to the stage.
3-4 Zucchini, thinly sliced
2-3 large Carrots, shredded
1 T shallot, minced
3 T basil, ribboned
3 T Balsamic vinegar
1/2 T lemon juice
1/3 c olive oil
Using a vegetable shredder on your carrot, create fine julienne ribbons. I like mine to be about 3-4" in length. Using a mandolin, cut the zucchini into long strips.
Season the zucchini and grill them lightly and quickly to soften them up so they are not raw and can easily be rolled.
In a bowl, mix together the vinegar, salt, pepper, shallots, basil and oil. Then toss the carrots so they are all coated with this tangy basil mixture.
Take a zucchini strip, grab a mound of carrots and begin to roll it up. Arrange on a platter.
Make these a head of time while you enjoy a crisp glass of wine, then cover with plastic wrap to keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. I would recommend taking them out at least 1/2 hour prior to serving to allow them to kick off the icy chill. You can also serve these warm. If you opt for this route, I would prep everything ahead of time right up to the rolling part. Then put the zucchini in the oven to warm, roll up and serve immediately. Anyway you wrap these; cured ham, cucumber, zucchini, cold, warm... well, you get the picture, they will be your new favorite app. Delightful for any party. Hey, you could also serve a couple of these atop a salad as a first course. Gosh, I just love when a simple little root veg goes showing off its multitalented uses. Bravo, Carrot!
Post note: Two weekends ago we were invited to our friends' house last minute and I was asked to bring some appetizers. I didn't have much in the house and it was snowing. This is the best time to employ the something from nothing style. Open the fridge to find, some carrots, chives and baby bok choy. You guessed it. I replaced the basil with chives and the zucchini with baby bok choy. The flavors were subtle but still made an impression. Open your fridge and turn on your inner something from nothing genius to wrap up some balsamic bathed carrots.