Next time you take carrots for granted, look to India for inspiration. Carrots there are grated with toasted cumin seeds, stir-fried with red chiles and turmeric, chopped and tossed into a rice pilaf with the rich warmth of ground cardamom.
Too often, I rely on carrots as the backbone of soups, stews and braises. Along with onions or leeks, they provide a firm ground on which to build a dish. But when they’re kissed with a little honey and sparked with spice, they shine all on their own.
When pan roasted, carrots become everything they should be — softer, sweeter, pleasantly browned and nicely crinkled. The technique is easy and quick, and works wonderfully for a range of root vegetables — beets, sweet potatoes, parsnips, new potatoes. The only trick is to cut the vegetables to be the same size so they’ll cook evenly and be done at the same time. The first step is to sauté them in a little butter or oil, add a splash of citrus or wine, then cover the pan, reduce the heat and continue cooking until tender, remove the cover, brown them off. In this recipe, the carrots are glazed with a little honey, but maple syrup, agave or a spoonful of brown sugar would work equally well.
Pan roasted carrots make a fabulous side dish. Sprinkled with creamy chèvre and served on peppery watercress, they’re an easy first course or nice light lunch. Or toss chickpeas in the pan with the carrots, add a splash of lime juice, and serve over brown rice with crumbled feta for a fine vegetarian meal.
While we wait for our own roots to show in our gardens and markets, California carrots taste better with this kind of love. Be choosy when buying carrots and avoid those that looked dinged or seem flabby. Refrain from buying those with green tops. Though those lacy greens are pretty, they tend to draw moisture from the roots. Carrots are better shipped without the frills. If possible, buy carrots in bulk. Stored in plastic bags, they can become moldy. I keep carrots in brown paper bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Carrots are ubiquitous throughout Europe and throughout India and Asia. They were planted in North America by early settlers and figured into a variety of dishes, savory and sweet. Drizzled with molasses or honey, they were sometimes served for dessert. Now there’s a sweet idea. But try these first.
Honey Glazed Carrots With Cumin and Mint
Note: These carrots are honey-kissed, sparked with cumin and backyard mint. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 1/2 lb. small carrots or larger carrots, peeled, quartered and cut into 3-in. slices
• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• Juice of 1 lime
• 1 tbsp. honey, or more to taste
• 1 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed
• Pinch red pepper flakes, or to taste
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 to 2 tsp. chopped fresh mint, to taste, for garnish
In a large heavy skillet set over medium-high heat, sauté the carrots in oil, turning until softened and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the lime juice to taste, cover, lower the heat and continue cooking until the carrots are just tender, another 5 minutes.
Remove the lid, drizzle in the honey, stir to coat the carrots, and toss in the cumin, red pepper and the salt and pepper to taste. Cook another minute or two until the carrots are nicely glazed. Serve with mint sprinkled on top.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 110 Fat 4 g Sodium 110 mg
Carbohydrates 20 g Saturated fat 1 g Total sugars 12 g
Protein 2 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 4 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 ½ carb, 1 fat.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.