Holding rank as true workhorses in both the kitchen and the garden, it is rare to find a carrot that is not at least close to being in season. I may be late to the party on this one, but I only recently realized that at the winter farmers market in Portland, carrots are always being offered, as is the case with the spring, summer, and autumn markets. The more I thought about carrots, the more it became clear to me that, in addition to being a flexible, all-season vegetable, carrots are also a veritable cornucopia of cooking versatility.
It may sound surprising to hear someone wax so rapturously about the common carrot, but it’s only occasionally that one is faced with a vegetable so ready and willing to be roasted, mashed, shaved, boiled, pickled, or braised, and yet also able to be simply delicious and satisfying on its own, freshly pulled from the ground. Carrots are a staple in my home, as I am sure is the case with many other people, and when the seasons change and we begin to set our sights past merely enjoying our carrots crunchy and raw, I begin to think of ways to continue our carrot consumption into the next season.
Roasting any vegetable will bring out the natural sweetness locked within, and carrots hold court as the pride of this tried and true cooking method. Paired up with richly caramelized cloves of garlic and just a hint of woody and aromatic thyme, this intensely savory roasted carrot spread is an undeniable treat that is fit for both sunny picnics and cool winter evenings.
Taking the current pickling trend into consideration, it seems only natural to mention how well carrots take to brine. A crisp carrot made vinegary and tart is a welcome snack during any time of the year, and this Indian-spiced pickle is a quick and refreshing way to dress up a garden’s bounty. Using a cold pickling method to preserve the carrots will result in a pickle that requires being eaten at faster pace than pickles preserved in a hot brine, but I don’t imagine these pickles will be left to languish once word of their spicy, brisk sweetness gets out. Even if you go so far as to make two batches of these pickled carrots—one batch to tell people about, one batch to hoard for yourself—I wouldn’t be too worried about the state of your pickled carrot supply. Rest assured, there will nearly always be more carrots waiting for you and your brine.
Roasted Carrot and Garlic Spread
1 pound carrots, scrubbed, trimmed of ends, and cut into roughly 3-inch chunks
3 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled and very lightly smashed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. On a heavy baking sheet, combine carrots, garlic, thyme, olive oil, and seasoning. Toss to coat evenly. Roast carrots and garlic for 25 minutes, turning over garlic cloves halfway through, until both carrots and garlic are soft and deeply caramelized. Remove from oven and allow to cool on pan for 5 minutes.
When carrots have cooled slightly, scoop them into the bowl of a food processor, pouring in as much excess olive oil and possible. Remove garlic cloves from their papery skin, and add to the carrots. Blend in the food processor until thick and smooth, stopping every few seconds to scrape down the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute total.
Quick Pickled Indian Carrots
½ pound carrots, peeled and tops removed
1 ½ cups white vinegar
1 ½ cups cold water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon whole mustard seeds
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
5 paper-thin slices of peeled fresh ginger
4-inch long by 1-inch wide strip of fresh lemon peel, outer part only, with no white pith
4 sprigs of fresh cilantro
In a 1-quart mason jar, combine all ingredients. Tightly screw on the lid of the jar, and shake vigorously until the salt and sugar have dissolved and all of the ingredients have become intermingled. Place in the refrigerator and allow carrots to pickle for at least 5 hours, but preferably overnight, before eating. Pickled carrots will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, and their flavor only gets better the longer they are allowed to sit in their brine.
|About the contributor:|
|Elizabeth Miller is a freelance writer who runs Savory Salty Sweet, a food and kitchen appreciation website. She also writes the Melting Pot column here on Indie Fixx, which appears bimonthly on Fridays. Read more about her on the contributors’ page.|