by Terrell Williams
What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot.
This staple of American kitchens seems to have sunk into a rut in recent decades. There’s stew with carrots, where vital nutrients are often reduced to orange mush. There’s the carrot-raisin-mayo mix that still shows up at potlucks and salad bars. Fortunately, molded lime gelatin with shredded carrots went away with the 1960’s. Carrot and celery sticks, ho-hum nutrition, are put out with dips at most football parties. And carrot cake with pineapple, while not bad, also is a passé standard.
Originally a thin, tough root, the carrot and its leafy top (related to parsley) was used by ancient Greeks and Romans as medicine. The root was also toasted and ground to make a beverage like coffee. The French get credit for developing the carrot as food, and by the 1200’s, it was grown throughout Europe. Carrots remain common in traditional American dishes.
But, no joke, they can be so much more.
Mediterranean Carrot Salad
The carrot is native to Mediterranean regions, and is still a main ingredient in countless recipes there. This dish, adapted from a north African recipe, features an exotic combination of simple flavors.
One pound carrots, sliced thinly (about 4 cups)
3 tbsp, fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp honey
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp caraway seed, crushed
1 tsp dried red chilies, crushed (optional)
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
Steam the carrot slices until crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. In a salad bowl, mix carrots with parsley and mint. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic, honey, salt and the next four spices to make a salad dressing. Pour over carrots. Mix well. Garnish with eggs and olives. Serve warm or chilled. Serves 4.
Tunisian Carrot Soup
This definitely can be classed as a comfort food, but it’s also extra-nutritious, since the vegetable broth is made from scratch. It’s a little extra effort, but the fresh taste is worth it.
2 tsp peanut oil
½ large white onion (about ½ cup), chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
2 cups grated carrots
2 tsp curry powder
1 3-oz. package of cream cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
6 cups water
2 stalks celery
½ large white onion
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic (about 2 tsp)
½ tsp salt
2 tsp dried thyme
1 jalepeno pepper, seeds removed
Chop vegetables into chunks. Place in a large pan and simmer in water on medium heat about ½ hour. Strain. Discard vegetables.
First, get the broth going in a gentle boil on the stove. Next, in a large saucepan, sauté the chopped onion in oil until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the strained broth, grated carrots and curry. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Let the soup cool slightly. Transfer half to a blender. Add half the cream cheese. Cover and process until smooth. Repeat with remaining soup and cream cheese. Serve heated or chilled. Top with parsley. Serves 4.
Thai Carrot Stir Fry
For an easy vegetable side dish, this stir-fry is the way to go. The bok choy adds lots of body as it replaces celery, cabbage, onion and spinach. For a variation, skip the fish sauce at the end and add a cup of chopped fresh pineapple.
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger root
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
1 bok choy, chopped (about 4 to 6 cups)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1½ cups water
1 tsp crushed dried red pepper (optional)
2 tsp fish sauce
In a wok or large saucepan, heat oil. Add garlic and ginger. Stir fry 1 minute. Add carrots. Stir fry 2 minutes. Add sweet pepper, bok choy and soy sauce. Stir fry 3 to 4 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Mix cornstarch with water and stir into vegetables. Cook another 2 or 3 minutes, until sauce thickens. Add crushed red pepper and fish sauce. Serves 4.
Cran-Carrot Oatmeal Cookies
Make a batch of these soft, not-too-sweet treats for the lunch box or for a late night snack. Chilling the dough several hours before baking makes it easier to handle and gives the flavors time to marry.
½ cup shortening
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated carrot
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ cup chopped cashews
½ cup dried cranberries
In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, butter and sugars until light. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add carrots and mix well.
In another bowl, combine the oatmeal, flour, soda and salt. Stir in the walnuts and cranberries. Add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours.
Drop by tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly before removing to a plate. Yield: About 3 dozen.
Terrell Williams is a former home nutrition instructor for the University of Idaho Extension office in Twin Falls, Idaho. She also has been a professional photo-journalist for 25 years.