Behold the versatile carrot

May 4, 2011 

Think for a moment. What vegetable is more versatile than the carrot?

Carrots can be sweet or savory.

They can be pickled whole, sliced and oven dried (or fried) for chips or served raw for healthy snacks; juiced for a vitamin-rich beverage; shredded and used as, or in, a salad (or the main ingredient in a salad dressing); diced and combined as with onion and celery as the classic base (mirepoix) of soups, stews and broth; steamed, roasted or braised as a side dish; cut in long strips and slightly blanched, tossed with butter and garlic and served like pasta; the main ingredient in carrot cake.

These veggies are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A when consumed. It is proven to help improve poor eyesight and is high in fiber, which can help keep you, um, regular.

Those packaged mini carrots are the one treat that my dog, Honey, has developed a yearning for and expects to receive every time the refrigerator door is opened. It is also the one treat that I don’t feel guilty about giving her.

It is true, however, that if one eats too many carrots, your skin will turn orange (kids, don’t try this at home). I’ve seen it happen to a co-worker once. Didn’t know at first if it was the result of carrots or a bad self-tanning job. You have to eat a massive amount of carrots, though ... and it’ll be hard to tell with Honey, if she’s had too many, as she’s a golden lab.

Anyway, carrots are good for you ... in reasonable portions. And they are quite versatile. And cheap (as vegetables go), about $1 per pound at the grocery store.

I tried growing them once in the garden. They never grew more than an inch or two long, so now I resort to buying them year-round.

The pre-cut and peeled mini carrots are perfect for snacking or putting through the food processor to grate for carrot cake.

The recipe below is for a cake that has become my brother-in-law’s favorite. I made it for John as a groom’s cake when he and my sister got married and tried it out again a couple of weeks ago for Easter. I took the remaining half to work, where my co-workers finished it off to rave reviews.

The carrot-ginger-sesame dressing is something I came across while trying to re-create the dressing at my favorite sushi restaurant. Just serve it over a simple bowl of mixed greens or iceberg lettuce.

Carrot-Dill Salad

6 servings

About 4 cups shredded carrots (6-8 large carrots)

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (can sub lime juice)

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp salt

Toss together the carrots and dill in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey and salt until an emulsion forms. Pour the dressing over the carrots, tossing to coat. Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice or salt if necessary.

Best served the day it’s made.

From epicurious.com

Carrot Sesame Ginger Dressing

makes 2 cups

1/2 lb. carrots (3 medium), coarsely chopped

1/4 cup chopped, peeled fresh ginger

1/4 cup chopped shallots

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

Pulse carrots in a food processor until finely ground (almost puréed). Add chopped ginger, chopped shallots, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and salt and pulse until ginger and shallots are minced. With motor running, add vegetable oil in a slow stream.

Transfer mixture to a blender. Add 1/4 cup water and blend until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Thin dressing with additional water if desired.

From epicurious.com

Pickled Carrot Sticks

Makes 10 to 12 servings

1 pound carrots, cut into 3 1/2- by-1/3-inch sticks

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed

1 1/2 tablespoons dill seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

Blanch carrots in a 4-quart nonreactive saucepan of boiling salted water 1 minute, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Transfer carrots to a heatproof bowl.

Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Pour pickling liquid over carrots and cool, uncovered. Chill carrots, covered, at least 1 day for flavors to develop.

Cooks’ note: Carrots keep, chilled in an airtight container, 1 month.

From Gourmet magazine

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

16 servings

For cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup honey

2 cups grated carrots

3/4 cup baking raisins (optional)

3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

For frosting:

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature

1 stick of butter, softened at room temperature

1 (1 pound) box of confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon lemon extract

For cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour two 8- or 9-inch cake pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Set aside.

Using a whisk, combine eggs, vegetable oil, sugar and honey until well blended. Fold in the flour mixture, carrots and, if using, the raisins and pecans.

Divide batter between the two cake pans and bake for 40 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back when touched slightly.

Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Frost and serve.

For frosting:

Using an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese and butter until combined. Slowly add the confectioners sugar and lemon oil and mix until smooth and light.

From McClatchy News Service

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