“She’s like a rainbow, coming, colors in the air, Oh, everywhere.”*
Consider the carrot. It’s a workhorse of a vegetable. As one of the three vegetables in a mirepoix, the French trinity, it forms the base of all stocks, countless soups and braises. But when they’re stuffed into plastic and piled high in the store, no one thinks of the carrot in the same way as they do of our “new best friends” kale or cauliflower.
It’s not that easy being orange.
|Carrot in the Juliana Anicia Codex|
In the history of carrots, the orange carrot is a relative newcomer, crossbred and cultivated in Netherlands in the 17th century**. Before then carrots were white (perhaps confused with parsnips), yellow, red, and purple. (You need to have yellow and purple carrots to crossbreed into an orange carrot). There are even black carrots, bred and grown in India for their high nutritional content.
I have a book on heirloom vegetables published back in 1998. In it carrots only get a few pages and only four heirloom varieties are listed. All of them are orange. But that has changed. Seed catalogs now mention varieties as diverse as the yellow Amarillo, Atomic Red, Cosmic Purple, the lemon-yellow Jaune Obtuse du Doubs, Lunar White, Snow White, Old World Spanish Black, as well as many different orange varieties.
Bundles of these rainbow colored carrots begin to appear at our local farmers market as summer dwindles.
I like roasting carrots but it does alter their color; with heirlooms, it can mask their color altogether if roasted too long. You might ask why bother to roast these carrots if you end up losing their distinctive colors? These carrots are so sweet to begin with that roasting only intensifies that sweetness.
Here are two recipes using heirloom carrots. If you don’t have heirlooms, you can use any carrot that you have on hand, farmers market or otherwise.
In the first recipe, the carrots are spiced with curry powder before roasting and served with pan-seared salmon with a coconut/carrot sauce. The second is a salad.
Salmon with Curry Spiced Roasted Carrots and Coconut/Carrot Sauce
For two servings
Two 4 to 6 ounce portions salmon filet
½ cup carrot juice
½ cup coconut milk
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon minced chives, optional
4 Heirloom-variety carrots, in different colors
2 to 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
salt and ground black pepper
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and scrub carrots under cold water; do not peel. Cut the carrots lengthwise in half and cut the carrots in half again; to assure even roasting the pieces should be about the same thickness.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together the olive oil, curry powder, salt and black pepper. Add the carrots and coat them with the seasonings. Line a baking tray with a sheet of aluminum foil. Lay the carrots in an even layer onto the baking pan. Place the carrots into the oven and roast for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and turn the carrots so they roast evenly. Return the carrots and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, until the point of a knife easily pierces the carrots. Remove from oven. Use the foil to tent the carrots as they cool and set them aside.
2. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over high heat (alternately you could grill the salmon). When the pan is hot, swirl in a tablespoon olive oil. Place the salmon skin side up into the pan. Cook the salmon for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon. Turn the salmon over and continue cooking for an additional 4 to 5 minutes, to your preferred degree of doneness. Adjust heat under the pan as necessary. Remove the salmon from the pan and place onto a paper towel lined plate. Cover with a piece of foil to keep warm.
3. To prepare the sauce, place the carrot juice and the coconut milk into a small saucepan. Season with sugar and some salt and ground black pepper; mix together. Bring the sauce up to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook to reduce the sauce by 1/3. Stir in the chives, if using.
4. Spoon the sauce onto two plates. Top with the salmon and place the roasted carrots onto the salmon and serve. Leftover carrot juice and coconut milk can be stored in the freezer for future use.
Roasted Carrot Salad with Frisee, Almonds, and Pecorino Cheese
For two servings
3 or 4 Heirloom-variety carrots
salt and ground black pepper
2 to 3 handfuls frisee lettuce
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
2 Tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and scrub carrots under cold water; do not peel. Cut the carrots lengthwise in half and cut the carrots in half again. To assure even roasting, the pieces should be about the same thickness. Line a baking pan with a piece of aluminum foil. Place the carrots into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, and season with some salt and ground black pepper. Mix to distribute the oil and seasonings. Lay the carrots in a single layer onto the baking tray. Roast the carrots for 12 minutes; remove from oven and turn the carrots so they roast evenly. Return the carrots to the oven and continue roasting for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the point of a knife easily pierces the carrots. Remove from oven. Use the foil to tent the carrots as they cool and set them aside.
2. While the carrots are roasting, toast the almonds. Place a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. After the pan is hot, add the almonds to toast, stirring and tossing the nuts so they brown evenly. When the almonds are nicely browned, remove from heat, set aside, and let cool.
3. Prepare the lemon vinaigrette:
Juice of ½ lemon (about 1½ teaspoons)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
3 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoons salt and ground black pepper
1. Place the lemon juice into a bowl. Add the garlic and let stand for about a minute. Add the salt and black pepper and mix in the olive oil. Cover and set aside until needed.
4. To assemble the salad, place the frisee into a medium-sized bowl. Add the carrots and almonds. Mix the lemon vinaigrette together and spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette onto the salad and mix into the salad. Divide the salad between two plates. Garnish each salad with the cheese and serve.
*”She’s a Rainbow,” by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, but you knew that already, right?
**There is a drawing of what clearly appears to be an orange carrot in the Juliana Anicia Codex dating from 512 A.D. but not too much documentation of orange carrots exists until the 17th century. And yes, there is a World Carrot Museum http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/ that contains more information and research into the humble carrot than you can imagine.