• Simply Fresh by Julie Wern



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    Featured Item—Carrots

    Carrots are probably the most universally palatable vegetable.Even kids that won’t touch a green vegetable are typically not adverse to carrots.Sweet and crunchy when raw and even sweeter when cooked, carrots are definitely crowd pleasers.

    While most of us have grown up knowing only the large orange varieties, carrot varieties can actually vary by size and color.They are typically categorized by length and can be white, yellow, orange, red, or purple.

    Carrot greens are one of those vegetable tops that people tend to shy away from.Yet they can be delightful in various culinary preparations and offer a very healthful dose of chlorophyll and vitamin K.While slightly bitter, the greens are fun used sparingly in salads or as a garnish, or added to soups, omelets, or homemade veggie broth, and even made into pesto.They can also be dried to use throughout the winter as an herb.Be sure to clean the leaves really well, however, as they tend to hold a lot of grit.

    Carrot roots are very high in Vitamin A (good for the eyes) and the antioxidant carotene (it was even named after the vegetable), but also contain impressive amounts of vitamin c, fiber, B6, and potassium.

    Culinary uses for carrot roots are endless.The favorite of every crudité platter, they are a home run with most kinds of dips.They often play an understated role in salads and coleslaw, but shine when they star in their own theater.One of my favorite ways to serve carrots is shredded, as the main ingredient in a salad.Of course most of us know the famous carrot salad with mayonnaise and raisins, but try this healthful, delicious carrot salad made simply with shredded carrots, jalapeno, lime juice and olive oil FineCooking.

    Cooked carrots are sweet and delicious.Some believe that steamed carrots retain more nutrients than boiled carrots.But carrots can also be sautéed, grilled, and roasted (they are especially good roasted with other root vegetables).They are also fabulous in baked goods (see recipe below for carrot muffins).

    Try adding a bit of shredded carrot (and zucchini) to your favorite marinara sauce as it cooks, then blend it smooth.The blended sauce becomes a bit orange, but the sweetness of the carrot helps to cut the acidity of the tomatoes in a delicious way.The kids will never know there are vegetables in their sauce.See recipes below for some other great ideas for cooked carrots.

    Choose carrots with moist, bright green tops that are under about 8” (after that they tend to get woody).The roots should be fairly uniform in shape and relatively smooth.Avoid any with pits, cracks or holes.Cut greens from roots, leaving about an inch or two of stem on roots, and place each separately, unwashed, in plastic in the refrigerator.The greens will deteriorate quickly, but the roots can last several weeks.Once the roots become limp or slimy they are no longer good to eat.

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    This pesto is bright and fresh with a bit of sharpness due to carrot greens and Parmesan. It is delicious tossed with steamed carrots.Try also putting it on pizza, tossing it with pasta, placing it on fish, adding it to soups, or spreading it on sandwiches. Carrot top pesto can also be made with other nuts and cheeses for many delicious possibilities.

    Carrot Top and Parsley PestoMakes 2/3 cup

    INGREDIENTS:

     

    – 1 cup packed carrot greens, feathery leaves only

    – 1 cup fresh parsley, packed

    – 1/2 cup toasted slivered or sliced almonds

    – 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped

    – 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan

    – 1/4 teaspoon salt

    – 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

    METHOD:

    In the bowl of a food processor, place carrot greens, parsley, almonds, garlic, salt and Parmesan.Blend until almost smooth.Add olive oil gradually through feed tube and blend until pesto is very smooth.Serve immediately.If refrigerate or freeze, make sure to press saran wrap to entire surface of pesto to avoid discoloring due to oxidation.

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    Carrot cake is one of my family’s favorite sweets, but we look for lightened versions, as it can generally be too rich and unhealthful.I love my adaptation of a version from Cooking Light (Jan-Feb 2008).I eschew the frosting (it is so moist it doesn’t need it), and add a bit of white whole-wheat flour and some shredded coconut for more nutrition and fiber.I also make them into muffins, which are great as a breakfast or snack treat.

    Carrot Muffinsmakes 9-10 muffins

    INGREDIENTS:

     

    – 1/4 cup white whole-wheat flour

    – 1/2 cup all purpose flour

    – 1/4 cup quick rolled oats

    – 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

    – 1teaspoon baking powder

    – 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    – 1/4 teaspoon salt

    – 3/4 cup sugar

    – 1/4 cup canola oil

    – 1 2 1/2 ounce jar carrot baby food

    – 2 large eggs

    – 1 1/4 cups peeled and grated carrots

    – 1/2 cup raisins

    – 1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut

    METHOD:

    1. Line 9 cups on muffin tin with pastry liners.Preheat oven to 325.

    2. In a medium bowl, whisk flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt.In another medium bowl, whisk sugar, oil, carrot baby food, and eggs until just combined.Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients, just until combined.Fold in carrots, raisins, and coconut.Fill muffin liners 3/4’s full (you should get 9 or 10 muffins).Bake for about 20-22 minutes or until tops spring back and tester comes out clean.Remove from oven and carefully turn out onto a cooling rack.

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    The following, easy to make soup is a delicious way to use up both carrots and the last basil of the season.

    Carrot Basil Soupserves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

     

    – 1 pound trimmed carrots, sliced (peel if you prefer)

    – 1/2 large onion, chopped

    – 1 celery rib, sliced

    – 1 large clove garlic, minced

    – 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

    – 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

    – 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, divided

    METHOD:

    In a medium stockpot, melt butter on medium-low heat.Add carrots, onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes, or until onion is translucent and soft.Add broth and dash of cayenne and bring to a boil.Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until carrots are very tender.Using a hand or regular blender, blend soup mixture with about 1 tablespoon minced basil until smooth.Season to taste with salt and pepper.Serve sprinkled with minced or chiffonaded basil.

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