When winter hangs on and on, often the only way to brighten it is at the table. From breakfast or luncheon muffins to salads and main dishes, the humble but power-packed carrot is at the ready to perk up your mood as well as your menu. Today we offer a handful of delights to choose from. Enjoy!
Our illustration shows a savory mix of carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes — but you can choose most any vegetable for easy oven-roasting. The secret is to pair veggies of equal density — beets and carrots — for instance, and cut into equal sizes. They can be joined by others — onions, sweet spuds, yams, squash cubes, etc., a bit later — or the latter can be cut in larger pieces for equal cooking time. Toss rinsed prepared veggies on heavy duty buttered foil, season with salt and pepper and pull foil loosely over all, pinching together at the top.
Oven temperature is pretty much up to you, depending upon your dinner time. Many people prefer 400 degrees; I generally set my oven at 375. It usually takes an hour or more — again depending on your vegetables — but the important thing is to check about every half-hour or so, turning them and adding butter or oil as needed. When everything is nearly done and just short of fork-tender, pull foil away and let cook unwrapped for 10 minutes or so. Then carefully remove from foil into a warmed serving dish, pouring any butter/juices in the foil over them. Season to taste, sprinkle with chopped parsley, chives or other herb or spice of choice and serve.
On now, to some carroty goodies. Remember, these versatile roots accept and enhance a myriad herbs and spices from fennel, mint and dill to cinnamon, almond and curry.
6 cups thinly sliced carrots
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Simmer carrots in water to cover until just tender to bite, 5-7 minutes; drain.
Meanwhile, in a 1- to 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stir coriander and cumin until fragrant — less than a minute. Pour spices into a bowl and mix in cayenne, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley and minced garlic. Toss with carrots until well incorporated. If desired, moisten salad with a little more olive oil. Serve at room temperature.
Yam and Carrot
8 medium-large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch rings, then chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled, coarsely grated
1 large yam, peeled, coarsely grated
2/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup golden-brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 tsps. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine carrots, potato, yam and raisins in large bowl. Melt butter in large heavy medium saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat, cool completely. Whisk eggs, baking powder and cinnamon into butter mixture. Pour over vegetables; mix well. Season with pepper and transfer to prepared dish. Bake until vegetables are tender and mixture is set in center and golden brown on top, about 1 hour & 30 minutes.
Carrots with Leek
2 pounds fresh-pulled medium-small carrots, scrubbed, trimmed, sliced into half-inch pieces
1 pound washed, trimmed leeks, thickly sliced just into the light green stalk
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
2 ˝ cups sweet white wine (Sauternes) OR dry white (Chablis or Pinot Grigio) sweetened with 1-2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper
Place carrots with leeks and spices in a heavy bottomed pan; add wine or wine/honey mix; bring to boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until carrots are tender. Serve hot or cold.
Tip: This is also delectable substituting fresh young beets
Our muffin recipe is perfect for supper with a hearty soup.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 1/2 tsps. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 cup grated carrots
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
Pre-heat oven to 400F. butter 12 1/3-cup muffin cups. Into a bowl sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and salt. Melt butter and in a small bowl whisk together with sour cream, egg and vanilla. Stir butter mixture and mix-in ingredients together into flour mixture until just combined. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake in center of oven until golden and tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly then remove from cups. Serve warm.
4 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup thinly sliced, cut-up red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs. olive or salad oil
1 Tb. each mustard and cumin seeds
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. cane sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat; add oil and swirl to coat. Add mustard and cumin seeds and cook about 1 1/2 minute or until mustard seeds begin to pop. Remove from heat. Stir in garlic and let stand 2 minutes. Whisk in vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour vinegar mixture over veggie mixture, tossing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.
Tip: For an extra spark, add half of a finely minced jalapeno if you wish, stirring it into the seed mixture with the garlic.
Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. or by phone at 208-265-4688.