We take our carrots for granted. They have a tenacious year-round presence and don’t trigger a marketing flurry when they’re about to make an annual six-week appearance like, for example, asparagus or strawberries do. Carrots deserve some respect . . . elevated status mid-winter . . . their own fifteen minutes of fame.
Humble orange beauties good for babies, elders and everyone in-between, they’re easy on the eye and the pocketbook. Admittedly, they’re sweetest and crispiest during spring and summer, and though they don’t grow prolifically mid-winter, autumn’s crop stores well and in some moderate climates they’re harvested throughout the seasons. Carrots hang around in the fridge pretty much all year long so we just get used to them.
However, their culinary repertoire is diverse, from sticks to salads to beloved carrot cake, so I thought we should give them center stage and honor their steadfast dependability. To prove the point here are two salads and a soup which offer a new perspective on winter’s carrots; each is low fat (potentially) and super nutritious. The idea is that locally grown or produced ingredients are incorporated into the preparation as much as possible.
Sitting at the counter of a fancy French restaurant recently, I decided I could afford their curried carrot and apple soup. Everything was delicious, and the soup smashing. I checked online, imagined possibilities and made a version of that soup that may not be high class French, but it comes close.
Curried Carrot & Apple Soup:
Finely chop 1 onion and slowly sauté in 2 T butter and 1 T olive oil/ Scrub and roughly chop 6 or 7 carrots (5 cups)/ Peel and roughly chop 1 or 2 apples/ Add 1 t sea salt to onion mix along with ½ t turmeric, ½ t red curry paste (optional), 2 t curry powder/ Stir and cook together for a minute or two/ Stir in chopped apple and carrot and cook together for several minutes/ Add 4 cups of chicken stock, 2-3 cups of water (or all water).
Adjust heat to slow simmer and cook uncovered until carrots and apple are tender, about 30 minutes/ Turn off heat and allow mix to cool a bit/ Purée mixture in food processor, in small batches in the blender, or use an immersion blender in the sauce pan/ Purée until smooth and silky/ Add a little more water or stock if needed to achieve desired consistency/ Taste and adjust seasoning/ Optional – stir in cream and a little more butter before serving. This soup transports carrots from ho-hum to oh-yum.
Carrot Salad with Dill & Parsley:
Begin with 4 – 5 cups peeled and cross-sliced carrots, lightly steamed to al dente (2 or 3 minutes give or take).
While carrots are steaming, mix together the dressing in a serving bowl: 2 T vinegar, cider, white wine or champagne; 2 T olive oil; 2 t dried dill; ¼ t powdered mustard, or 1 t regular mustard; 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced / When carrots are al dente, still slightly crunchy, drain and rinse immediately with cold water/ Drain again and while still warm mix into serving bowl with the dressing/ Stir in parsley when ready to serve.
This salad can be made a few hours or a day in advance. Another twist is to chiffonade 2 cups of fresh kale, put it in the salad bowl and place the dressed carrot salad on top. Let it all sit for an hour or two, even longer. Gorgeous color, healthy, big flavor. Get your health nut groove on.
Carrot, parsley, & dill salad with a chiffonade of kale.
Depending on how much you’d like to make, strain 1 – 2 cups of plain yogurt and 2 – 3 cups grated carrots separately. A coffee filter works well with the yogurt, an ordinary sieve is fine for the carrots. Twenty to thirty minutes should do it. Strained yogurt thickens and the possibility of liquid appearing in the salad later on is diminished; the same is true with the carrots. After straining, stir together with 1 – 2 t toasted cumin seeds, ½ – 1/3 C chopped fresh cilantro, ½ – 1 t curry powder, 1 clove of garlic finely minced, and a spoonful of sour cream if you like. Refrigerate. This is great with salmon and pita bread, as posted last June – Fish Are Jumpin’ & the Carrots Are Nigh. There you have it. Carrots center stage.