What's more reliable than a carrot? They're sweet but also savory. And it seems no matter what time of year, they're always around — bright, colorful, crunchy and fresh.
But carrots do have a growing season. And though it's winding down in many parts of the country, carrots are still going strong, storing extra sweetness as they continue to grow underground. And early fall is, in my opinion, the best time of year to seek out freshly harvested carrots of all sizes, shapes and colors.
If you've only ever eaten an orange carrot, there's a whole world of other colors and flavors to explore: purple, yellow, white, and kaleidoscope or striped carrots. There are literally dozens of different varieties. Although the differences between them are often subtle, each carrot variety has its own nuance of flavor and texture. Look for varieties at farmers markets and specialty markets.
Orange carrots, the most common, tend to be sweet with a slightly earthy flavor. They are versatile and can be used in any dish.
Purple carrots have a slightly peppery flavor and tend to also be quite sweet. They are delicious pickled so you can show off their snazzy color or serve them raw in crudités plates.
Red carrots get their color from lycopene, the antioxidant you find in tomatoes. Great in soups, grated raw in salads or used in cakes.
White or golden yellow carrots are a bit milder than their orange counterparts, with an earthy, sweet flavor. They are delicious roasted or used for soup.
Rainbow Blend refers to an array of purple, red, orange, and white carrots that can be used in any type of recipe. They also make delicious, colorful juice or smoothies.
And let's not forget how good carrots are for you. A single carrot contains beta carotene, fiber, potassium, and is loaded with antioxidants. And one medium-sized carrot is a mere 25 calories.
The enormously adaptable carrot can be the star of soups, salads, stews, pancakes, roasts, muffins, quick breads, and cakes and cupcakes. Here are three favorite new recipes — from soup to dessert — as well as some old favorites.
Roasted Carrot And Ginger Soup
Carrot and ginger are very good friends. They have come together in a soup before, but this version uses some interesting techniques. First of all chunks of fresh carrot are roasted with an onion and chopped fresh ginger until almost tender. While the mixture roasts, vegetable broth is simmered with more fresh ginger. The roasted carrots are then deglazed with a cup of ginger tea. (Yes, I said tea! Simply pour a cup of boiling water over a bag of ginger tea. If you don't have ginger tea you can steep a piece of fresh ginger in boiling water.) The carrots and tea are then simmered with the ginger broth and finally pureed.
The result is a thick, beautifully orange soup, sweet and earthy with roasted carrots and sharp hints of ginger. You can even grate raw ginger on top of the hot soup to bring out the ginger flavor further.
The soup contains no dairy, making it vegetarian as well as vegan. Serve with croutons or warm crusty bread.
This recipe is adapted from one in my book “Soup Swap” (Chronicle Books).
Serves 4 to 6.
1 pound carrots, about 4 large or 8 medium, peeled and trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium white or red onion cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
One 2-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 bag ginger tea*
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 inch piece fresh ginger peeled and grated on ginger grater or finest knob of cheese grater
½ cup Greek yogurt or heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
*If you don't have ginger tea you can simply place a 1-inch piece of peeled chopped ginger into a mug of boiling water and let it steep for 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium roasting pan or ovenproof skillet, toss the carrots, onions, oil, salt and pepper. Roast on the middle shelf for 15 minutes. Remove and stir in half the fresh chopped ginger. Roast another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium pot simmer the stock with the other half of the ginger.
Boil water and make 1 cup of ginger tea. Let steep for 5 minutes and then remove the tea bag or strain out the fresh ginger.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and deglaze the pan with the ginger tea. Add the vegetables and juices from the skillet to the pot with the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and puree in a blender, food processor, or use an immersion blender until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot. The soup is delicious on its own, but you can garnish with a grating of fresh ginger on top, a dollop of Greek yogurt, sprinkling of chives, or a swirl of heavy cream, if desired.
Carrot And Yogurt Pancakes
These savory pancakes make an excellent lunch, light dinner or even breakfast. Think of them as a basic recipe that you can play with and personalize: I like sprinkling ground cumin and za'atar into the batter. You might like adding a few tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs like tarragon, parsley and chives. Toppings can range from a dollop of Greek yogurt to smoked salmon and sour cream, salsa, olive tapenade or applesauce.
Makes eight 2-inch pancakes.
½ cup flour, 60 grams
½ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon fine salt
1 large egg
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
¼ cup Greek yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium-large carrot, peeled and grated, about ½ packed cup, 80 grams
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin, optional
1 teaspoon za'atar (a Middle Eastern blend of thyme, oregano, cumin, sumac, sesame seeds and coriander available in some grocery stores, spice shops and online), optional
About 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
Toppings: Greek yogurt, chopped Italian parsley, smoked salmon, sour cream and chives, salsa, etc.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk in the egg, milk, yogurt and pepper. Using a soft spatula or wooden spoon mix in the grated carrot and cumin and za'atar if using. The batter can be made several hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
In a heavy large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Make a pancake from about 2 tablespoons of batter and repeat. Be careful not to overcrowd the skillet; cook about 3 to 4 at a time depending on the size of your skillet. Cook for about 2 minutes and gently flip. Cook for another 1 ½ to 2 minutes, or until the pancake is golden brown and slightly puffed. Keep warm on a serving plate in the preheated oven. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve hot with Greek yogurt and parsley or any toppings of your choice.
Carrot And Apple Tea Cake With Candied Carrot Strips
Here's the deal: This is one of the easiest cake recipes you'll ever bake. It's a moist, carrot-rich cake scented with grated apple, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, allspice, chopped raisins and walnuts. Think carrot cake but much simpler and healthier.
Instead of a traditional cream cheese topping, you can sprinkle with confectioners' sugar or get a little fancy and make with these candied carrot strips: Boil some sugar and water. Add thin peeled strips of carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Let cool and you have a beautiful sweet topping for your cake. Serve with tea or coffee for breakfast, snack or dessert.
Vegetable oil for greasing the loaf pan
½ cup golden or regular raisins
1 cup light brown sugar (165 grams)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
Pinch cardamom, optional
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup canola or vegetable oil
1 ¾ cups (225 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ packed cups (180 grams) peeled and grated carrots, about 3 medium
1 medium apple, peeled and grated, about ½ packed cup, 80 grams
½ cup walnut halves (70 grams), coarsely chopped
¼ cup confectioners' sugar, for the topping
The Candied Carrot Strips:
1 medium carrot
⅓ cup sugar
⅔ cup water
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Place a piece of parchment paper inside the pan that comes up along the edges. Lightly grease the parchment paper.
Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes; drain and coarsely chop. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the brown sugar and eggs. Add the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cardamom (if using), and salt and whisk until smooth. Add the ¾ cup of oil and whisk until smooth.
In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Working in small batches and using a soft rubber spatula, add the flour mixture to create a smooth batter. Add the carrots and apple and stir to fully incorporate. Stir in the chopped raisins and walnuts. The batter will be thick. Spoon it into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile make the candied carrot strips, if desired: Use a wide vegetable peeler and peel about 6 strips off the carrots working from top to bottom. In a medium skillet set over high heat, heat the sugar and water until boiling. Add the carrot strips and boil (you may need to reduce the temperature slightly) for 5 minutes, or until the carrots look soft and almost golden and the sugar syrup has thickened. Remove the carrot strips onto a piece of parchment paper to cool and dry.
When the cake is cool, use the sides of the parchment paper to release it from the pan and remove the paper. Place on a serving plate. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the confectioners' sugar by placing it through a fine sieve. Arrange the candied carrot strips on top, if using. The cake will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for around 3 days.
Other Carrot Recipes
Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto
Chilly Dilly Pickled Carrots and Beans
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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