This carrot salad is everywhere in France. You can buy it by the kilo or prepackaged at boucheries and supermarkets. It’s on menus at both classic bistros and the kind of spots you walk into and think you’ve accidentally touched a portkey to Los Angeles. The first time I had it was from a train station kiosk during an especially long transfer at the Gare d’Avignon, en route to meet friends in Provence. I paired it with a croissant because, balance. It was fine (the croissant was better) but that’s part of the simple beauty of the Extremely French Carrot Salad or “carottes râpées” in French: It is at its best—and most cost-effective—when made at home.
“Carottes râpées” translates to decidedly less chic sounding “grated carrots,” and that’s mostly what it should be: grated raw carrots, lightly dressed with oil and lemon, a bit of cumin, and little else. If you want to riff, keep it uncomplicated: use a mess of colored carrots, replace lemon juice with lime, up the cumin, or add in a touch of ground coriander.
Making it is simple: In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp. light honey, and ½ tsp. ground cumin. Season with salt. Add 1 lb. carrots, grated on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor, fitted with a grating attachment, and toss to coat, adjusting the dressing to taste. Stir in ½ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro and set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving.
I made this salad many times throughout the process of writing my cookbook À Table, and I’ve become especially taken with its ability to pair with pretty much anything else on the table. It’s on the book’s cover alongside Coq au Vermouth (p. 111), Salade Verte with Cornichon Vinaigrette (p. 210), and, maybe predictably, very good butter, bread, and wine. In fact, I’ve eaten it as a meal alone with very good butter, bread, and wine. I love it paired with the Cider Pork (p. 141). I eat forkfuls of it as bright, palate-cleansing breaks while eating the rich, cheese-heavy Croque Madame (p. 169) or the equally rich Raclette, or Cheese Dinner with Carbs (p. 171). I’ve eaten leftovers for lunch, standing fridge-side as a snack, and I’ve tucked it into tupperware and brought it to picnic in Parc des Buttes Chaumont or for apéro on the Canal Saint-Martin.
And now that I know better, I pack it for every train ride to Provence.
Rebekah Peppler is a Los Angeles- and Paris-based writer and food stylist.
Adapted from A Table by Rebekah Peppler with permission by Chronicle Books, 2021