published Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Carrot curiosity: Finding new ways to cook the veggie Mom always said was good for you

Carrots with Chickpeas and Pine Nuts
Carrots with Chickpeas and Pine Nuts
Photo by Dan Henry.
TOSSED & FOUND

There's a drawer in a chifforobe in our kitchen that only contains recipes, hundreds and hundreds of recipes, recipes of dishes I would love to try.

These are recipes torn out of newspapers, ripped from magazines, downloaded from websites, copied down from friends and family members.

However, my family's lifestyle is not conducive to anyone preparing and sitting down to a home-cooked meal, so my opportunity to prepare these recipes is limited to occasional weekend evenings when my wife, my son or I don't have other plans or occasions when we're called to take a dish somewhere.

So it is my hope, through this once- or twice-monthly feature, to try these recipes. They'll be recipes that are relatively easy and don't call for you to have everything in Julia Child's kitchen. In other words, it's likely you'll have everything on the shelf or might buy it in a weekly grocery run.

I'll make one or two recipes per week and let you know how they come out. I'll include my substitutions, things that happened as I prepared them and whether the dish met my expectations.

I hope you'll send me similar recipes, or different ways you cooked the same dish. We will publish your recipes where possible.

— Staff writer Clint Cooper

My mother, like most mothers, insisted I eat my carrots because they're good for your eyes. I've had glasses since fifth grade, so apparently that didn't work for me.

So I've always had a love-hate relationship with carrots.

The downside first came in the roasted carrots that accompanied the roast beef and potatoes that served as our lunch on many Sundays in my childhood. I never got used to their bitter taste or the mushy texture.

On the upside, raw carrot sticks weren't so bad, especially if there was something to dip them into. As diet foods went in later years, the same carrot sticks weren't too bad as long as I didn't have to eat too many at a time. And they provided a good crunch in salads and, even cooked tender-crisp, in Chinese dishes I came to enjoy as an adult.

But then there was the carrot/raisin salad I prepared one year — now more than 20 years ago — for my extended family for my parents' anniversary. It was not a familiar dish to my family, they didn't enjoy it, and they have never let me forget it. At any number of family get-togethers to this day, I am reminded of it.

Carrots, according to the website Nutrition and You (www.nutrition-and-you.com), are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and dietary fiber but tally only 41 calories per 100 grams, a negligible amount of fat and no cholesterol.

They are an exceptionally rich source of carotenes and vitamin A, rich in many B-complex groups of vitamins and also good in vitamin C. The fine print also tells of their assistance in vision (thanks, Mom), healthy connective tissue, controlling heart rate, protecting against cancers and a bunch of other good things only doctors would understand.

So I am constantly on the lookout for carrot recipes that use the root vegetable in a state I find edible and delicious. As I combed through the drawer and the websites I consult, I decided to steer away from salads, soufflés, cakes (carrot cake is one of my favorites) or any recipe I assumed called for the carrots to be cooked thoroughly.

I chose one dish that called for the carrots to be roasted, one for them to be prepared in a slow cooker, one for them to be sautéd and one for them to be cooked in a saucepan.

Roasted Carrots

8 carrots

1 red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon walnut oil

1/8 teaspoon allspice

Salt (to taste)

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 lemon

Chopped cilantro (to taste)

Dill (to taste)

Cut carrots into 1-inch sticks. Toss with onion, oil, allspice and salt. Roast at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, soak raisins in water. Add the raisins and walnuts, stir and continue roasting for another 10 minutes. When done, toss with the juice of one lemon, cilantro, dill and salt to taste.

• Cook/writer substitutions/changes: I used only half an onion, olive oil instead of walnut oil, lime juice instead of lemon, and bottled instead of fresh cilantro and dill.

• Result: The carrots seemed to lose their flavor in the roasting, but the other ingredients gave the dish an overall interesting taste.

— Food Network Magazine


Sweet and Sour Carrots

1 pound medium carrots, cut into 1-inch slices

1 medium green pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 can (20 ounces) unsweetened pineapple chucks

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

Place one inch of water and carrots in large saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer seven to nine minutes or until crisp-tender. Add green pepper. Cover and cook three minutes longer or until tender. Drain water and set aside. Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Add enough water to the juice to measure 3/4 cup. Set pineapple aside. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the pineapple juice mixture, vinegar and soy sauce until smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes until thickened and bubbly. Stir in the carrot mixture and pineapple. Heat through.

• Cook/writer substitutions/changes: I used sweetened pineapple chunks and regular soy sauce.

• Result: The carrots in this dish come close to the crisp-tender texture I like. If I do the dish again, I might cut down on the overall cooking time of the carrots. The additions of the pepper, pineapple and sauce gave the overall dish a delicious flavor.

— Taste of Home


Carrots with Chickpeas and Pine Nuts

1 red onion, sliced

1 can chickpeas

1/3 cup olive oil

4 carrots, shaved

2 garlic gloves

Pine nuts (to taste)

White wine vinegar (to taste)

Parsley (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

Pepper (to taste)

Sauté onion and chickpeas in olive oil until browned. Add shaved carrots, mashed garlic cloves and a handful of pine nuts. Cook until the nuts appear toasted. Drizzle with white wine vinegar. Add parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

• Cook/writer substitutions/changes: I halved the onion and used dried parsley instead of fresh (the recipe didn't indicate a preference). One-third of a cup of olive oil seemed excessive for this dish, and I would lessen it if I made it again. The recipe suggested using a peeler to shave the carrots, but the shavings wasted away to almost nothing in the pan. Just for the record, chickpeas pop like bacon in the pan. I forgot to add the white wine vinegar.

• Result: Because the carrot shavings were so thin, there was very little taste of them in the dish. But the onion/chickpeas/pine nuts/flavorings roux was quite good on its own.

— Food Network Magazine


Glaze-of-Glory Candied Carrots

1/4 cup low-sugar apricot preserves or jam

2 tablespoons brown sugar (not packed)

1 1/2 tablespoons light whipped butter (or light buttery spread)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 32-ounce bag (about 6 cups) baby carrots

1 onion, sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Black pepper (optional)

Cayenne pepper (optional)

Ground ginger (optional)

For the glaze, combine preserves, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Stir well and set inside. Put all the vegetables in a slow cooker and top with the glaze. Use a large spoon to stir the contents of the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for three to four hours or on low for seven to eight hours. Once the vegetables are cooked, in a small bowl, combine cornstarch with two tablespoons of cold water, and stir until the cornstarch dissolves. Add to the slow cooker and mix well. Turn off the slow cooker and leave uncovered for 15 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. Stir, and if preferred, add optional ingredients.

• Cook/writer substitutions/changes: My apricot preserves were no-sugar added rather than low sugar. The refrigerated whipped butter had the consistency of regular butter, so I wondered why it was called for. I chopped the onion rather than slicing it. I added a dash of all the optional ingredients.

• Result: I love to use the slow cooker, so this dish excited me, but the taste was disappointing. I cooked it on high for a shorter time, thinking the carrots might remain more crisp-tender, but they had the consistency of the roasted carrots I never liked growing up. The peppers cooked more or less to nothing, and the preserves and spices did not add much of flavor.

— Hungry Girl

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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