Carrots … Let Me Count The Ways
Three Carrot Recipes for Spring: Mary’s Roasted Carrots with Thyme and Brown Sugar; Roasted Carrots and Oranges with Cumin and Toasted Walnuts; and The Barefoot Contessa’s Orange-Braised Carrots and Parsnips
Here are three recipes for your spring table (or any time!). One recipe braises the carrots with parsnips and orange juice. The other two recipes are for roasted carrots, one with orange slices and cumin topped with refreshing Greek yogurt and toasted nuts; the other is from my friend Mary who roasts her carrots with olive oil, thyme, and brown sugar. All three of these vibrant, jewel-toned dishes remind me of spring, are delicious, super easy to make, and get bonus points for being able to be made ahead.
When I first saw the colorful, rainbow array of pink, yellow, white, orange, and purple baby carrots at our local Farmer’s Market, I knew these would be perfect for Easter. I didn’t even know carrots came in pink (my favorite color!). When you peel the carrots, you can see they are pink. I think the yellow and pink carrots may even be a tad bit sweeter than the orange ones. The purple carrots are yellow in the center, making for a colorful dish that even the most finicky eater will want to try.
I recommend using smaller or baby carrots as they are sweeter than regular carrots. Get them with the tops on so they stay fresh longer. Cut the green tops off, leaving just a bit in the end. Wash them thoroughly to be sure to get the soil out of the tops.
[Tip from Melissa’s Produce: Choose carrots that are bright and firm; avoid carrots that are dull and rubbery. Carrots keep for up to a month in a dry crisper…. Never store ethylene-producing fruit with carrots; the gas turns carrot bitter and inedible. Ethylene-producing fruits include apples, apricots, avocados (ripe), bananas (ripe), kiwi, peaches, pears, plums, and prunes.]
2 pounds carrots, peeled
3 T. good quality olive oil
1 bunch fresh thyme, stems removed to make 1 tablespoon
3 T. brown sugar, packed
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut the carrots in diagonal slices about 4 inches long, cutting the thick pieces in half lengthwise. Try to get them all the same size.
Place the carrots in the sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with one teaspoon kosher salt and a 6-8 couple grinds of black pepper. Sprinkle with one tablespoon thyme leaves. Toss with a spatula or your hands to coat evenly and spread in a single layer in the pan. Don’t be tempted to crowd the pan as your carrots will steam instead of roasting. Use two pans if making a larger serving.
[Extra yummy: After removing the carrots to a bowl or platter, if you wait about 5 minutes until the remaining brown sugar has cooled on the pan, you can peel off little shards of caramelized sugar pieces to use as a topping!]
Roasted Carrots and Oranges with Cumin and Toasted Walnuts
This dish is lightly adapted from a recipe in the Los Angeles Times, which called for toasted and salted pumpkin seeds, which I did not have on hand, so I used toasted walnuts. We love cumin, and the roasted orange slices caramelize for a delicious combination and, when topped with the refreshing yogurt, makes for a deeply flavored Wow! dish.
2 pounds carrots, preferably a variety of colors, peeled
1 Cara Cara orange, unpeeled, sliced as thin as possible
2 shallots, peeled and sliced thin
1 t. cumin seeds
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 T. olive oil
2 T. freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1/4 c. toasted walnut pieces
Big leaf parsley or cilantro chopped as garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Halve any thick carrots lengthwise and then quarter any larger pieces. Try to get them all the same size.
Spread the carrots, oranges, and shallots on the baking sheet and sprinkle with cumin seed, salt, and 6-8 grinds of black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and the orange juice, and toss to coat everything evenly.
Arrange the orange slices and carrots in as close to a single layer as you can. Don’t be tempted to crowd the pan as your carrots will steam instead of roasting. Use two pans if making a larger serving. Roast until the oranges are fragrant and have begun to color, about 20 minutes.
Stir carrots and oranges with a spatula and continue roasting until carrots are tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes more.
Arrange the vegetables on a platter, spoon over yogurt and sprinkle with toasted nuts. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Barefoot Contessa’s Orange-Braised Carrots and Parsnips
This recipe for Orange-Braised Carrots & Parsnips is lightly adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s Foolproof cookbook. I made these for Christmas Eve last year, and they were divine (the photos with the pink carrots below are from that meal). As with almost all of Ina’s recipes, this is easy, make-ahead, and delicious.
This recipe braises the carrots and parsnips, low and slow, in orange juice for 1 ½ hours to infuse the veggies with the orange and thyme and make them incredibly tender. I used our favorite variety of sweet pink oranges, Cara Cara, but any sweet orange will work. Garnish the veggies with a hand full of pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries for an extra pop of color, and you have a dish sure to wow! Your family and friends, not to mention, good for you too!
1 pound baby carrots, cleaned and peeled
1 pound thin parsnips, washed and peeled (if they are thick, slice in half or quarters lengthwise)
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced
3 medium, sweet oranges
1/3 c. good quality olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
Crushed red pepper flakes
Fresh ground black pepper
¼ c. pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries (optional garnish)
Big leaf parsley, minced for garnish
Preheat the oven to 275°F.
Cut the green tops off the carrots leaving just a bit on end. Wash them thoroughly to be sure to get the soil out of the tops or cut the tops off completely. Try to get parsnips the same size as the carrots or cut them in half lengthwise.
Layer the carrots and parsnips in a pot with a lid or Dutch oven that is large enough for the vegetables to lie flat. Zest two of the oranges over the pot so they can catch the oils from the oranges. Squeeze the three oranges so that you get 1 ¼ cups orange juice.
Add the shallots, ¾ cup of orange juice, olive oil, thyme bundle, a pinch of red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt, and a couple of grinds of black pepper to the vegetables.
Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover tightly with a lid. Transfer to the oven and cook for 1 ½ hours until the carrots and parsnips are very tender (test with a fork). Discard the thyme bundle. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of orange juice. Season the carrots to taste with salt and black pepper. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds, cranberries and/or chopped parsley.
Recipe lightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof