Crazy for Carrots
They're ready...or not. Bugs (as in Bunny)-tempting, bushy-topped, sunshiny, slowly cultivated carrots tantalize with their verdant green allure, only to dash your hopeful expectations with feebly dangling little orange tails if you pick before they're ready. But be patient. When they're pickable, you know. Unless, that is, you forgot to thin them. Which we did, this year, yielding as a result a huge amount of rather small, but tasty, roots. I really can't say definitively that I won't repeat the carelessness, however, because home-grown carrots, however, small, are great. Moreover, size doesn't matter in the slightest from a nutritional standpoint, not when this crisply fleshy veggie packs in more than six times the daily value for vitamin A, plus a whole host of other nutrients. Plus, surpluses are easy to deal with. Talk about quick and easy. Perfectly packable in lunchboxes, crunchy crudites, and sensational snacks and sides, carrots lend themselves to virtually any type of dish, from sweet baked goods to savory home-style hot pots. You really can't freeze, gift, or sample too much carrot cake either, especially not when it's low fat, whole wheat, honey-sweetened carrot cake with raisins, oats, and other good stuff, which is my absolute favorite and the birthday cake that, a little pathetically maybe, I make for myself.
Carrot cake obsession aside, however, all these little orange baby veggies were begging for experimentation, and I've been going through my standbys of quick carrot sides and highlights. Along with carrot cake, one of my favorite carroty go-tos is butternut squash and carrot soup, seasoned with a little curry and cilantro. I've never really put that much into enhancing sides, however, being a fan of raw or steamed carrots on their own. Recently, though, I've appreciated the possibilities of variously flavored accompaniments more, particularly those that have uniqueness without packing in a lot of unnecessary fat and calories, or requiring expensive ingredients other than those generally at hand in the kitchen. Here are a few of the super simple and satisfying for now, but check back for updates, or add your own!
Yogurt curry carrot dip/spread: In a saucepan, cook 1 1/2 cups carrots in 1/4 cup orange juice until softened. In a blender or food processor, combine carrots, 1-2 teaspoons curry powder or paste to taste, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 1 cup lowfat plain yogurt. Mix in herbs of choice (I like basil and cilantro). Process until smooth. Serve warm or chilled.
This simple dip has real zing, depending on how much curry paste/powder you decide to put in. It's easy, healthy and versatile, too. I like it with toasted pita triangles, but also as a textured, sweetly crunchy veggie spread on sandwiches. I've also put it in burritos and in omelets.
Honey-soy glazed carrots: In a saucepan, combine about 2 cups sliced carrots (or tiny carrots, which is how I like them best) with 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon honey and a little water. Bring liquid to boiling, then reduce heat or turn off completely and leave covered for 5-8 minutes, or until crisp-tender.
This is definitely among my favorite ways of sampling carrots, aside from your basic raw stick!
Chili-ginger carrots: Steam 2 cups sliced or baby carrots until crisp-tender. In a bowl, coat carrots with 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, and 2 teaspoons ginger. Turn carrot mixture into a skillet coated with cooking spray, and further cook 3-4 minutes.
You can't go wrong with chili and ginger!
Lemon-dill carrots: In a saucepan cook 2 cups carrots, covered, for 10 minutes in a small amount of boiling water with 1 tablespoon fresh dill (or a teaspoon dried), 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and a dash of pepper. Squeeze a little extra lemon juice over to serve.
This popular flavor combo is usually done with margarine or butte,r but I really don't think you need it, and personally find the seasoning better for being that bit more subtle.
Butternut, carrot, and cilantro soup
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 1 medium butternut squash--roasted, skinned and seeded
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a large pot, cook the onion and carrots until lightly browned. Add chicken broth, squash, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 20 minutes. Add cilantro.
- Transfer the soup in turns to a blender, and blend until smooth. Return to pot and heat a further 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
This soup is creamy without needing any cream, but you can also garnish/stir in some sour cream to serve.