Carrots can be used as an ingredient in salads, but since they are a hard, fibrous root vegetable they should be cut into bite-size and easily chewable pieces. Carrots can be sliced, diced or grated, depending on the type of salad.
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Wash and scrub the carrots thoroughly before preparing. Cut off the leafy tops and about ½ inch of the top of the tuber. Also cut off the leggy roots and trim about ½ inch from the bottom of the carrot. Trim off any offshoots, and if the carrot seems to have a tough outer skin, use a vegetable peeler or small vegetable knife to peel the skin off.
To slice a whole carrot, use a large 6 or 8-inch kitchen knife with a sharp blade. Position a carrot horizontally in front of you, on a cutting board. Place the point of the knife down on the cutting board on the far side of the carrot. Use one hand to pinch the back of the knife behind the point and hold it firmly on the board. Keeping the point always on the board, use your other hand to lower the knife blade like a lever through the carrot, cutting it into ¼ inch slices – similar to the action of an old-fashioned paper cutter. This technique is much safer than a typical chopping motion, and also provides more precision.
For a stir fry or Asian-themed salad, you can also try cutting the carrot at a diagonal, to make longer, oval cuts. Tilt the knife at a 45 degree angle. Start at the thin edge of the carrot and work back to the larger top end.
You can save carrot peelings along with other vegetable rinds and ends to make homemade vegetable broth.
To dice a carrot into small cubes, start by slicing the carrot down the middle. Again, place the knife point down and, starting at the thick top end, use the blade to slice the carrot in half. Place each half cut side down on the cutting board and slice each half lengthwise into 2 or 3 more long pieces. Then, beginning at the skinny end, slice horizontally across the strips of carrot to create cubical cuts.
Grated carrots look lovely and provide texture to a green salad, macaroni salad, potato salad or Asian-theme salad. Use a the largest size of a hand grater or mandoline to grate 1- to 2-inch strips from a whole carrot.
You might also be able to use a hand chopper or food processor to dice or grate carrots, but some hand choppers are not durable enough to cut root vegetables, and some processors are too powerful and will turn the carrot to mush. Experiment first with a half a carrot before deciding. Sometimes a good, sharp knife is the fastest way to prepare carrots -- and with less mess to clean up.