Carrots are somewhat underrated in my kitchen. Oh yes, I use carrots all the time. In my soffrito, the Italian vegetable base which I make with finely chopped carrots, onion, garlic, and celery. I use it as an indispensable ingredient in bouillon and often in a large mixed salad. But this beautiful sweet root vegetable is not very often the star in my kitchen. Until now.
GRATED CARROT SALAD WITH WALNUTS
When I came home from the market with a large bag of beautiful rainbow carrots, I suddenly felt like making my mom’s famous grated carrot salad with walnuts. It was one of the first recipes I ever made once living on my own, but somehow, I stopped making it. It’s very, very easy (especially when you grate the carrots in a food processor) and it goes wonderfully well with almost everything. Last week I served it with a Swiss chard frittata and some crusty bread.
Serves 4 as a side dish
Action time: 15-20 minutes, plus resting
75 g (3/4 cup) halved walnuts
about 450 g (1 lb) rainbow carrots, trimmed and scrubbed (or peeled)
1 onion, finely chopped
5 tbsp walnut oil
3½ tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sharp mustard
1 tsp honey
a large handful of flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
a small piece of feta
Extra: food processor with a blade for grating (large holes) or a box grater (large holes)
1. First, while tossing, briefly toast the walnuts in a dry skillet, until they are fragrant. Do not let them get too dark or they will taste bitter. Let cool on a plate. Chop the walnuts coarsely.
2. Grate the carrots in a food processor or on a box grater. Put the carrots in a bowl and add the onion.
3. In a small bowl, mix the walnut oil, vinegar, mustard, and honey. Generously add salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix the dressing with the carrots and onion and let sit for 10-15 minutes so the flavors can marry. Mix in the parsley and walnuts, taste, and adjust the seasoning if you like. Crumble over some feta cheese.
Note: Sprinkle over some pomegranate seeds for extra crunch and sweetness.
In a way, I owe this thick and comforting soup to my mom as well (maybe I owe her my whole kitchen repertoire…). In fall and winter, she likes to make this kind of soup with butternut squash. Do not omit the freshly grated ginger on top of the soup, as it gives a delicious extra kick.
Serves 4 as a lunch of light dinner
Action time: 45 minutes
2 tbsp mild canola or sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh red chili pepper, finely chopped
3-4 cm fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped, plus extra
1 tsp ground cardamom
about 1250 g orange carrots, trimmed, scrubbed (or peeled) and sliced
1 liter (4 cups) hot vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk (400 g/ 13.5 oz)
1 can of chickpeas (400 g/13.5 oz), rinsed and drained
a small bunch of cilantro
naan bread for serving
Extra: hand blender
1. In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic, chili pepper and ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the cardamom add cook briefly, until fragrant.
2. Add the carrots and stock, cover the pan and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to a simmer, and cook until the carrots are completely tender, about 20 minutes.
3. Puree the soup with a hand blender until smooth. Add the coconut milk, give it a stir, then add the chickpeas. Simmer on a low heat for about 5 minutes. Taste, and adjust the salt. Serve in bowls. Grate over some fresh ginger and top with some cilantro. Serve with naan bread.
Note: This soup gets better if you make it well in advance. Reheat it right before serving.
ROASTED HARISSA CARROTS WITH TAHINI SAUCE
Get fancy with carrots and serve this elegant but simple dish with roasted carrots as a starter. Roasting brings out the best in most root vegetables. The heat of harissa combines perfectly with the sweetness of the carrots, while the tahini sauce adds some creaminess to it.
Serves 3-4 as a starter
Action time: 20 minutes, plus 35 minutes oven time
about 800 g (1.7 lb) rainbow carrots
1 tbsp harissa paste (preferably a spicy one)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
a handful mint and/or cilantro leaves
extra virgin olive oil, for sprinkling
For the tahini sauce
3 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp lukewarm water
5 tbsp yoghurt
1 garlic clove, grated
½ tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp lemon juice, or more to taste
Extra: large baking sheet
1. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Scrub the carrots and halve or quarter them lengthwise into long strips (quarter the thicker ones). Put them on a large baking sheet.
2. In a bowl mix the harissa paste with the honey, olive oil, and some salt. Toss the carrots with the harissa mixture. Roast the carrots in the oven for about 35 minutes, turning once or twice, until tender and caramelized at the ends.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the tahini and 2 tablespoons water until smooth. Add the yoghurt, garlic, cumin, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Add some more water if you like your sauce a little thinner.
4. Taste the carrots and sprinkle over some extra salt and pepper. Arrange the carrots on plates. Sprinkle over some tahini sauce, sesame seeds, fresh herbs, and olive oil.