Sunny, hot and muggy days like these take me back to the summers of my southern American childhood.
Deep in rural Virginia, the early morning whirring of the cicadas warned of heat to come, when cool breezes from the wide York river vanished and the midday sun erased all wish to move. I spent these days reading, choosing probably totally unsuitable books from my father's shelves, curled in the shadowy, almost cool branches of the weeping cherry tree just outside the sunroom door.
My mother, emphatically, would NOT cook, instead assembling fruits, salads that could live in the fridge until mealtime. Ripe tomatoes, ideally still warm from the sun, needed nothing but a sprinkling of salt, preferably eaten whole with the juice dripping deliciously down my chin, but I loved her simple grated carrot salad sweetened with raisins, moistened with mayonnaise, served in a bowl of lettuce. Refreshing, too, my grownup older sister's salad of thinly sliced radishes and cucumbers in sour cream.
Decades and many Parisian grated carrot or celeriac salads later, I see grated (or thinly sliced) vegetables - carrots, summer squash, beets, radishes, celeriac, baby artichokes in season, even baby turnips - as perfect hot summer salad solutions, a whiz to make with modern food processors.
ALL YOU NEED for my mother's grated carrot and raisin salad are fresh carrots, raisins, mayonnaise - plus my addition, a tablespoon or two of fresh orange or lemon juice to thin the mayonnaise and add a citrusy tang. Oh, and some fresh lettuce to serve with the salad.
Wash, peel and grate 2 or 3 carrots (depending on size) per person. Put in a bowl with about 1/4 the amount of raisins. Moisten with mayonnaise (with or without citrus juice) or a simple oil and vinegar dressing (the vegan solution). Leftovers are good the next day.
Alternatively, grate a small cucumber or summer squash or both, (peeling only if you want to) and add to the grated carrots instead of the raisins. Yogurt or sour cream are good dressings for this, perhaps flavoured with minced garlic, or if you prefer non-dairy, use a classic oil and vinegar dressing.
Serve on lettuce.