Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook
What do I do when I want recipe inspiration? Why I take a trip around the world, of course, to peruse the various cultures which use vegetables so magically. I’ve done just that with carrots as the new varieties are so exciting. Many chefs have taken on this root and turned it into a work of art. We need not go that far, however, below are some new treatments for that old standard you may not have tried.
Also listed below are descriptions of the 5 main types of carrots and following that are photos of more unique varieties.
Five main types of carrots:
- Chantenay type– 2 to 2 ½ inches in diameter at the shoulder and 5 to 6 inches long with a medium to large neck. Color is medium to light orange with a red core. Better for shallow, heavy soils than the long, skinny Imperator types.
- Imperator type– the main, commercial, fresh-market type, grown on up to 95% of the carrot acreage in Texas and California. They are 7 to 8 inches long with a top diameter of 1 ½ inches. Roots are deep orange in color with a lighter orange core. Roots become woody when fully mature, but are excellent when harvested at their prime.
- Danvers type– conical with a top diameter of 2 to 2 ½ inches and length of up to 7 inches. Deep orange with a light center. Quality is excellent in young roots; becomes fibrous with age.
- Nantes types– cylindrical with a blunt tip, 6 to 7 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. Roots are bright orange with a small core. Tops are often small and require careful digging at harvest.
- Miniature and Oxheart types: Baby carrots are sometimes termed Amsterdamtypes. The roots are 2 inches in diameter and only 2 to 3 inches long. Stump-rooted or round carrots are suitable for heavy, clay soil or container gardening.
Nutrition: Rich in beta-carotene (converts to Vitamin A). Also a source of Vitamins C & B6, folate and essential minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium and manganese.
What is Shawarma? We may think it resembles a gyro as in “wrapped hand food”but this recipe varies greatly. Shawarma is often thinly sliced cuts of meat, like chicken, beef, goat, lamb, and sometimes turkey, rolled into a large piece of flatbread or pita that has been steamed or heated. Inside the pita, foods like hummus, tahini, pickles, vegetables, and even french fries are added. Think of shawarma as a gyro or burrito Middle Eastern style. Let me tell you, this recipe is truly delicious. It’s a great break from meat and should please all of you vegetarians out there. The sauce or spread is especially divine, so serve more on the side (and make extra).
- 1 ounce dried apricots (5 or 6)
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 ounces chopped walnuts (about 1/3 cup)
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon vinegar (wine, sherry, or cider)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or mild chili powder, to taste
- 2 pounds carrots, peeled, cut into 4-inch lengths and cut in half lengthwise if fat
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
- 3 large sheets of lavash or large flour tortillas, preferably whole wheat
Optional, for serving: 1/2 cup drained or thick Greek style yogurt, mixed if desired with puréed garlic, 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the dried apricots in a bowl or Pyrex measuring cup and cover with 1/2 cup boiling water. Let steep for 5 to 10 minutes, until soft. Retain the soaking water, remove the apricots, pat dry with paper towels and cut into small dice.
In a small food processor finely chop the garlic and walnuts. Add the cilantro and chop together or process to a paste. Add the apricots and process to a paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, the vinegar, salt, and Aleppo pepper. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of the soaking water from the apricots. The paste should spread on the lavash easily.
Steam or blanch the carrots until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Cut into sticks-about 4 inches long and 1/3 inch wide. Toss in a bowl with the lemon juice, remaining olive oil, mint, salt and pepper.
Square off lavash or tortilla by cutting away the rounded ends. You should have a piece that is 10 or 11 inches wide. Divide the walnut spread and the carrots into three equal portions. Spread a third of the walnut spread over a lavash. Arrange one batch of carrots on the lavash from one end to the other, about two inches in from the bottom. Fold the bottom edge over the carrots and roll up tightly. Cut the roll in half at the middle and trim the ends so that the carrots are showing at both open ends.
Heat a dry skillet or griddle and heat the carrot roll for a few minutes on one side, until it begins to brown. Turn over and heat on the other side, then serve, accompanying each roll with seasoned or plain yogurt if desired.
Makes about 1 cup of carrot harissa for many crostini
Harissa is a spicy North African sauce made from dried and soaked chili peppers, garlic, cumin, and other seasonings. Of course when this sauce gets to the US, we decide to have our own way with it. Here the main component the carrot with mere hints of chile peppers. Roast the lemon along with the carrots for a tantalizing depth of citrus.
- 4 dried Anaheim or California chilies, stemmed and seeded
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced ½-inch thick, on the bias
- 1/2 fresh lemon, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- a few pinches of sea salt
- 2 tablespoons plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- fresh chopped cilantro
Cut dried chilies into ½ inch wide pieces. Place chile pieces in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let chiles stand for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450F.
Place carrot and lemon slices on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over all. Toss to coat evenly. Set the timer for 15 minutes and put in oven to roast, shaking pan once halfway through. When there are four minutes of cooking time left, add cumin and coriander seeds to carrot mixture. Let cool a bit before processing.
Drain water from chilies and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add roasted carrots, lemons and spices; scrape all of the oil from the pan into the processor; process until smooth. Add garlic clove and with the motor running, drizzle in remaining olive oil until you have a thick paste. Adjust seasonings and stir in cilantro.
Place the harissa in a container; cover top surface with a drizzle of olive oil and cover tightly. Refrigerate one hour or overnight to season.