Seasonal Chef: Crisp Crunchy Carrots

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With Rosh Hashanah just around the corner I was thinking it might be interesting for me to tie a traditional dish to my post this week. Let me first say that I am not Jewish, but have attended a fair amount of seders in my lifetime thanks in part to some wonderful friends and family members. After a quick call to my friend Peter Green I almost immediately settled on the idea of re-imagining the dish Tzimmes. The main ingredient of this dish is carrot, and right now the Farmers Markets are teeming with them. Bright big and beautiful white, red and orange taproots.

Carrots have made an appearances in a few of my previous posts: as part of my CSA box and also a supporting character for my Fabulous Fava recipe.

As I noodled around the internet  this week reading about carrots I found a few interesting tidbits I thought would be fun to pass along. I was fascinated to read that unlike most vegetables carrots are so much better for you if you cook them. Eating them raw is still nutritous, but cooking adds more nutrients nearly 10 fold!

Carrots were first cultivated for medicinal purposes and then for eating. It seems by some accounts this glorious food originated in the Middle East and traveled off to the Mediterranean. Carrots are high in Beta-Carotene and Vitamins A (for vision), C & K. They are low in Sodium and Carbohydrates, have zero Fat or Cholesterol and are high in Fiber.

On one trivia website I read that eating 3 carrots can give you enough energy to walk 3 miles. (Really? Perhaps I need to try that!) Another bit of information I came across said that the high level of Potassium found in carrots can help keep muscle cramps to a minimum while working out. Definitely something I need to keep in mind when doing Pilates!

Let’s get back to the topic at hand: cooking up this magnificent SUPER food! Boiling is definitely on option. These little “Thumbalina’s” above took no time at all. After a quick peel I blanched them for about 4-5 minutes in boiling salted water. These little gems are so delicious and sweet. Perfect on their own, or tossed with a little olive oil and white wine vinegar.

A simple pan roast is always an easy way to cook them. Leaving them whole I peeled and tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in a preheated 450 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size. Just before serving sprinkle with a little more olive oil and lemon to brighten them up, plus a pinch or two of salt and pepper.

 

The tops are completely edible as well. You want to look for healthy bright leaves. Remove them from the taproot and give them a really good wash in cool running water and then place the ends in a glass of water to perk up the stems and leaves. I made a quick pesto out of these leaves and mixed  it to pasta with some cooked carrots. (Recipe is below.) A really nice alternative to the typical basil pesto.

This week my creativity was out of control, thanks in part to my trip to the Chappaqua Farmers Market. I knew that I needed honey and carrots for my dish, so maybe I would find a few other things? I picked up my carrots at the Madura Farm table and right next to them I got my jar of honey from Honey Locust Farm House. I love the Chappaqua market, it sits on an open lawn in front of St. Mary’s Church, on South Greeley Street. You can basically stand anywhere in that space and survey the vendors. Directly across from from Honey Locust I saw my favorite nut vendor Tierra Farm and zipped over to that table. They have the most delicious nuts and nut butters. As soon as I saw the Agave Ginger Cashews it started to come together in my mind: I would do a glaze of honey and ginger on the carrots and then top them with the crushed nuts. As I started to walk back to the car I passed the Newgate Farm table and spotted some early parsnips. I could not resist!

More after the jump … 

While I was driving home I remembered that Tzimmes is traditionally made with carrots and dried fruit, so I needed to figure out the fruit part. hmm … what could I do instead? As luck would have it the Rye Brook Farmers Market was in full swing, so I made a quick stop before getting home. Madura Farm also has a table there and I spotted some early apples. Specifically Asian pear-apples. Perfect!

Basically my creative cooking ritual is this: after a good wash I lay all my ingredients on the cutting board, step back and think. Next I open my crazy spice cabinet and start pulling things out. Initially I went for the star anise, an idea from Peter, but the coriander seeds were in front of them. hmm … maybe even better? Last, I needed an acid and lemon it was.

My recipe is below, but basically I made a marinade of fresh ginger, lemon zest and juice, honey and oil. After a good toss I topped the carrots and parsnips with the crushed coriander seeds and roasted them for 15 minutes in the oven.

For the last 5 minutes I added the sliced pear-apples.

After letting them cool a little I gave them a gentle toss to make sure everything was mixed and topped with the crushed nuts. Bellissimo!

I was riding the wave of creativity and thought “why not try this as a soup?” I’m crazy for soups, as you probably have already figured out. How could I go wrong with all these great ingredients? My recipe is below, but basically all I added, to what I was already using, was an onion and vegetable stock. Once everything was soft I simply pureed it with my immersion (stick) blender and added a little fat free half and half to give it a little more body. (That of course is completely optional!) Then topped with the apple and cashews. Another winner!

I hope you enjoy this new take on a traditional dish and to all my friends and family who celebrate the holiday L’shanah tovah!

Just a quick reminder before heading down to the recipes …. stop by the Chappaqua Farmers Market on Saturday September 15 for a taste of my take on Tzimmes. I will be there from 10:00 until Noon. I also have some new classes coming up at Tarry Market. Check this link for September cooking classes.

 

Buon Appetitio!

 

Carrot Pesto Pasta
Serves 6-8

1 lb bag of baby carrots, quartered length-wise
1 lb box of your favorite pasta
Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper
4 cups of carrot tops, cleaned and roughly chopped
2 scallions, about 1/4 cup, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the carrots for 2 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon to an ice bath.

Add the pasta to the pot and cook following the package instructions to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking place the carrot tops, scallion, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to a food processor and puree for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and add the cheese. With the processor running slowly drizzle in the oil until the pesto comes together and is creamy. Taste for seasoning.

Drain the carrots and set aside. Once the pasta is done drain that, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. In a large bowl mix the pasta, pesto and carrots. Use the pasta water, a little at a time, to loosen up the pesto. Serve with additional cheese.

 

Chef Maria’s version of Tzimmes
Serves 6-8

1 lb of carrots
10 oz of parsnip, about 2 medium
Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, grated on a micr0plane
1 heaping tablespoon of honey
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 lb Asian pear-apples, sliced 1/4″
Tierra Nuts Agave Ginger Cashews

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Peel and slice the carrots and parsnips. the shape is entirely up to you, but I did mine about 1/2″ thick and 3″ long. The goal is to have them the same size so they cook at the same rate. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet.

In a small bowl mix the lemon, ginger, honey, 1/4 cup of olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Toss the carrots and parsnips with the marinade. Place the coriander seeds in a small plastic bag and roughly crush them with the back of a skillet. Take car to not pulverize them, you want them to be a little chunky.

Sprinkle the crushed seeds over the veggies and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile cut the apple in slices slighltly thinner than the veggies. After 15 minutes add the apples to the pan and toss with the back of a spatula. Roast another 5 minutes to soften the apples.

Remove from oven an allow to cool slightly on  the pan. Place the carrot, parsnip and  apples in a serving bowl and top with 1/4-1/2 cup of roughly chopped cashews and serve.

 

Gingered Carrot-Parnsip Soup
Makes 1 1/2 quarts

1 small onion, about 1 cup, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
6 oz parsnip, 1 medium, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/2 lemon, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, crushed
1 heaping tablespoon honey
32 oz carton vegetable stock
1 medium Asian pear-apple peeled and cut into 1/4 ” cubes
1 cup fat free Half and Half, optional
Tierra Nuts Agave Ginger Cashews

In a small stock pot, over medium heat, saute the onion with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the ginger, lemon, coriander, honey and stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and falling apart.

Remove from the heat and uncover, allowing it to cool for about 15 minutes. Puree with with a blender until smooth. Add the Half and Half if desired and blend well. Add the apples.

To serve place the warmed soup in a bowl and top with roughly chopped ginger cashews.

 

 

Maria Reina is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Port Chester, NY. In her free time she loves hanging out at local Farmers Markets in Westchester County doing cooking demos with seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog you can follow her  on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

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About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmers, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

3 Comments

  1. Sorry, no tzimmes. If you had done something slow cooked…really slowly cooked…then maybe it would be a play on tzimmes. The whole idea is that you leave something without touching it. It’s not just food and it has to do with an entire tradition so it’s not really possible to do a play on this sort of thing. Roasted vegetables a tzimmes does not make. I don’t really want to make a big tzimmes about this issue but there it is. (Tzimmes is also used colloquially to indicated something that is a big deal.) There are no seders on Rosh Hashanah. Good try though. Better luck next time. If anyone wants a tzimmes I’d be glad to make them one: http://www.cookingontheriver.com and for you too Maria.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing Maria. Who knew that cooked carrots would be more healthier than raw? But I guess this is the season for a Tzimmes and I just had to laugh. My jewish grandmother and my mother would use that word solely as the meaning of “big deal” as Phyllis pointed out. I hadn’t heard that word in since I was a kid and yesterday I heard it twice (first at Cafe of Love while owner Leslie Lampert was going over her menu then in your post). I was not aware at all that it was a holiday dish. I don’t think I will look at a carrot quite the same way again. Thanks for all the info and for giving me an unexpected moment to think of both my grandmother and my mom!

  3. Thanks so much for the kind comment Patrice! I’m so glad my post resonated with you. I’m always looking to create a new twist on an old favorite, with my creations … I hope you will give it a try – it’s quite tasty!

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