Carrots—Not For Your Eyes Only

July 28, 2009

I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.
~Mae West

Carrots (Daucus carota) are root vegetables that have been traced back to ancient Roman texts of the 3rd century. Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family along with neighboring parsnips, fennel, caraway, cumin, and dill. Ancestors of today’s cultivated carrots likely originated in present day Afghanistan about 5,000 years ago, probably as a purple or yellow root.

Do you suppose more carrot consumption over past centuries could have avoided the collective myopia inherent in Afghan invasions and the seemingly endless conflict? (See below).

Coming in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors, carrots are a true multitasker—raw, steamed, roasted, in soups and stews, mirepoix, cakes, puddings, juices, and so on.

Mama reminded that you should down your carrots. Although some debate exists over this maternal advice, it may not have been just intuition or urban legend. Carrots are a potent source of antioxidant compounds, and contain healthy doses of vitamin A carotenes. If your diet is unbalanced and deficient in vitamin A, carrots have been found to help preserve or improve vision. In a five-year study, scientists in Ireland showed that the intake of high levels of carotenoids preserved macular pigments, slowing down the progression from early to late age related macular degeneration. In addition to improving vision, carrots have been traditionally known to treat digestive problems and parasites.

MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD

1 lb carrots, peeled, julienned or halved lengthwise then sliced diagonally into 1″ pieces

1 t ground cumin
1 t paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne
3 t honey
2-3 t white wine vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

1/2 C flat leaf parsley, chopped

Bibb lettuce leaves

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the carrots until just tender. Drain and cool to room temperature. Set aside.

Combine the cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cayenne, honey, wine vinegar, olive oil and whisk vigorously. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the carrots and parsley, then toss to coat well.

Marinate for a few hours, then serve over lettuce.

MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD II

2 large carrots, peeled

3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, puréed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 t cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 t coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 t sweet paprika
2 pinches cayenne

2 t sugar or honey
2-3 T fresh lemon juice
1/3 C flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Kalamata olives, pitted

Slice the carrots in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife or corer, remove the carrot cores and discard. Then, slice carrots diagonally into 1″ pieces. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil, salt and then cook carrots until just soft but not mushy, about 8-10 minutes. Drain in a colander and then plunge carrots into an ice water bath to halt cooking. Drain and dry on paper towels.

Meanwhile, purée the garlic cloves with the side of a chef’s knife or a mortar and pestle with a little salt. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, and cayenne. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, until the garlic and spices just become fragrant, but do not burn. Remove from heat.

Whisk together sugar or honey, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper and then add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in a stream while whisking. Heat skillet with spices again and then add the carrots back to the pan with the garlic and spices and stir for a few minutes. Add the honey/lemon juice/oil “emulsion” and stir together for a few more minutes, until the carrots are just glazed. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Transfer to a platter, and garnish with olives. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

ROASTED CARROTS

1 1/2 lbs organic baby carrots,* washed, with greens cropped
1 yellow onion, peeled, cut into 8 wedges
2 T fresh chopped rosemary
1 head garlic, cut across in halves
3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Gently toss together the carrots, onion, rosemary to coat with the olive oil. Arrange the carrots, onion, and rosemary in a baking dish (line with aluminum foil to ease clean up). Gently tossed so they are evenly coated with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast until nicely browned, about 30-40 minutes.

*Use organic local carrots which are the smaller sticks (4″-6″ long) with greens still attached, and not the commercial thumb sized variety that comes in a plastic bag.

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