Debby Maugans, food writer based in Asheville, North Carolina, and author of Small Batch Baking, Small Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers and Farmer and Chef Asheville.
Bottom Line: If you just roast carrots, they might shrivel and burn. Do this first.
The tender, sweet carrots you’ll find at farmer’s markets—whether short and fat or skinny as a rail—are a taste delight.
You might even find real baby carrots. Unlike the ones sold in bags at supermarkets, which usually are big carrots molded into tiny shapes, these are miniature, fully mature ones with a delicate taste.
Whichever kind of carrots you find, look for bunches with green tops attached that look fresh and brightly colored. The carrots should have a white, red, purple, yellow or deep orange color—but not pale. Next, look where the stems attach to the tops of the carrots—make sure that you don’t see any green on the carrots, indicating that they’re underripe and will taste more bitter than sweet—or any that are dark at the top, an indication of age. Organic carrots don’t necessarily taste better. (What about the bagged carrots you find in the supermarket? They may not be as sweet or tasty as just-picked farm-fresh carrots, but they’ll work fine in these recipes, too.)
Tip: You can use the greens in soup, but if you’re not going to use them, pull them off and trash them at the market before they are weighed—so you don’t have to pay for those greens.
When you’re ready to use fresh carrots, scrub them over running water. Don’t peel them—you’ll lose valuable nutrients in the skin. Now you’re ready to try one of these six ways to bring out their wonderful tastes. Each recipe makes three to four servings.
Roasting and grilling intensify the flavor of carrots, but if all you do is roast or grill raw carrots, they’ll shrivel. That’s especially true for smaller, tender carrots. The solution: Parboil them first. Here’s how…
Have ready a bowl of ice and a little water to stop the cooking. Add whole, scrubbed carrots to a large pot of boiling, salted water. Boil just until the carrots can be pierced with a fork, three to four minutes. Drain immediately, and add to ice water to stop the cooking process. When the carrots are cool, drain well and pat dry with paper towels.
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 pound carrots, scrubbed and parboiled (see above)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
2 Tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and spray the foil with cooking spray. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar and honey in a large, shallow dish, add carrots and toss to coat. Spread them on the prepared baking sheet. Roast until the carrots are browned in spots and tender, about 20 minutes, turning the carrots after 10 minutes. When you serve, sprinkle with fresh pepper and blue cheese.
1 pound carrots, scrubbed and parboiled (see above)
2 to 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons minced fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
Prepare the grill for medium-high heat. Spray a grill basket or grill cooking grate with cooking spray. Arrange the carrots in a single layer in the basket or on the grill’s cooking grate. Cover and grill about 10 minutes or until well-marked and tender, turning occasionally. Remove the carrots from the grill, and place them in a shallow dish. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the carrots, and toss with the dill, salt and freshly ground pepper.
Mound this carrot-salad garnish over grilled salmon or baked cod.
1/2 pound carrots
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon minced fresh mint
1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped shelled pistachios
2 Tablespoons minced green onion
Shave ribbons off the carrots with a vegetable peeler. Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, mint, parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add carrots, pistachios and green onion, and toss to coat.
Combining carrots with protein-rich chickpeas turns this into a quick and easy vegetarian entrée.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1 pound carrots, cut into 2-x-1/2-inch strips
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup raisins or currants,
1-1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Sour cream and minced cilantro, for garnish
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the onion, and sauté until just tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, and sauté 30 seconds. Sprinkle with the spices, and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the carrots, chickpeas, raisins, broth, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Stir well, and bring to a low boil. Cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until the carrots are tender, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat as necessary.
Serve in bowls. Top each serving with two teaspoons sour cream and minced cilantro.
1 pound carrots
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup finely diced sweet onion
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
2 Tablespoons cashew or peanut butter
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Optional: Chopped roasted cashews or peanuts, parsley or cilantro leaves, green onions, for garnish
Trim and scrub the carrots, and cut them into half-inch slices. Heat a large, heavy skillet or soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and heat. Add the carrots, ginger, onion and sugar, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and spread in a thin layer. Cover and cook until the carrots yield when lightly mashed with a fork, about 15 minutes.
Combine two cups of water and red curry paste, and bring to a boil, stirring until the red curry paste is dissolved. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are very tender, six to seven minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cashew butter and rice vinegar.
Purée with a handheld immersion blender, or process, in batches, in an electric blender until smooth. Optional topping: Sprinkle with chopped roasted cashews or peanuts, minced parsley or cilantro and thinly sliced green onion just before serving.