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What’s up, Doc? Fall carrots are sweet and delicious. A root vegetable, they spend the summer underground, putting up glorious, feathery green tops to let you know they are working on something big. Of course, you could head to any supermarket and buy a bag of pre-washed, peeled and cut- up “baby carrots” for a quick out-of-hand snack – if you must do this, at least buy organic, please – but did you know that you get more of the benefits of a carrot’s natural store of beta carotene if you cook it? So don’t be shy about adding carrots to soups, stews, stir-fries, baked goods and more. Carrots do both savory and sweet well, and you’ll find them in just about every global cuisine. Heirloom varieties like Deep Purple (self explanatory), Solar Yellow (ditto) and portly little Thumbelinas can all be found at local farmer’s markets; at most grocery stores, you can buy a bag of mixed heirloom carrots in shades of orange, yellow, white and burgundy (beware of these as the color does bleed a bit, so consider that when cooking).
I’m a carrot lover, so I’ve got plenty of ideas of how to use them in your everyday cooking and get the most out of your carrots!
Pickle and put in a salad or sandwich.
Peel and cut two or three big carrots into matchsticks. Place in a medium jar along with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro and maybe a small dried pepper if you like it spicy. In a small saucepan, combine ¼ cup each of white vinegar, rice vinegar, and sugar. Add 1 cup of water and a half tablespoon of kosher salt. Bring to a simmer to dissolve sugar and salt, then pour over carrots in jar. Cool to room temp then cover and refrigerate. These are great on a bánh mì sandwich, or really on anything fried (fish, chicken, etc. because the acidity plays nicely with the fat). I especially like these atop a Mediterranean bowl with assertive greens, crumbled feta, a few warm falafel, chickpeas, olives and a drizzle of tahini dressing.
Grate and use in a Moroccan salad.
One of my favorite lunch accompaniments is to grate a pound of peeled carrots and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, ground cumin, chopped fresh cilantro and mint. Simple and delicious, and even better the next day. If you want to toss a can of drained chickpeas (patted dry with paper towels) with a little olive oil, salt and cumin on a sheet pan and roast in a 425F oven until crisp (about 20 minutes), no one would be sad if you threw those on top, along with some chopped pistachios.
Make a Japanese-inspired salad dressing.
Throw a peeled and roughly chopped large carrot in a blender along with a peeled and chopped shallot, 1/8 cup of roughly chopped ginger, 2 tablespoons each of rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, water, and white or yellow miso paste, and a ¼ cup of avocado or safflower oil. Purée in blender, scraping down sides as needed, until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I love this on avocadoes, romaine lettuce, roasted veggies, fish, chicken… it’s versatile.
Roast in the oven and garnish.
I think of these as Ottolenghi-style carrots, but this dish can be found throughout the Middle East. Preheat oven to 425F. Take about 2 pounds of thin carrots, peel and place on a sheet pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and ground cumin. Roast 15 minutes, turn the carrots, and keep roasting until starting to get tender and a little browned. Remove from oven and place on serving platter. Drizzle with tahini dressing: whisk together ¼ cup each of tahini, fresh lemon juice and olive oil with a tablespoon of warm water, a tablespoon or two of honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Thin with additional water added by the tablespoonful until pouring consistency is reached.
Make Carrot Top Pesto.
In a food processor, finely chop a peeled garlic clove or two with a few tablespoons of toasted pine nuts or pistachios, then add in a cup each of cleaned carrot top fronds and baby spinach, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. If you’re not vegan, throw in a ¼ cup of grated pecorino or parmesan cheese. Process to a paste, then pour in a half cup of extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube with engine running. Scrape down once and process another 10 seconds. This is wonderful on roasted carrots, tossed with whole wheat pasta, in a turkey sandwich or scrambled in with eggs and feta cheese.
Try one of these tried-and-true recipes.
The internet is an infinite recipe resource, but how do you know which to trust? Not all recipes are created equal. Here are some I return to over and over that showcase carrots in all their glory.
Food & Wine’s Carrot Farinata https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/carrot-farinata
Smitten Kitchen’s Carrot Tahini Muffins https://smittenkitchen.com/2016/04/carrot-tahini-muffins/
Oh She Glows’ Carrot-Apple-Ginger Soup https://ohsheglows.com/2011/05/03/carrot-apple-ginger-soup/
The Minimalist Baker’s Creamy Carrot Cake Smoothie https://minimalistbaker.com/creamy-carrot-cake-smoothie/