Monday, January 20, 2014

Orange is for Carrots

Eating by color is amusing.  In college, I had a painting professor who was the first person I'd heard of to eat by color. Back then it was a performance art experiment and she and her sister explored one color each day for a week.  She reported that blue was a hard day but that orange had an abundance of choices. 

That may be nature's way of giving us any many opportunities as possible to load up on the impressive cell building, heart protecting, brain enhancing, skin rejuvinating, eye protecting properties of Vitamin A.  Not to mention the beta carotene that provides the orange color and is thought to help the body fight certain cancers.  While the choices are wide, the humble carrot should not be overlooked. 

Carrots are so prevalent that its easy to fall into a rut with them-- steamed, buttered, simmered in soup and stews.  This recipe gives them special attention, roasted whole to show off their attractive color, they are enticing on any plate. 

The recipe calls for an oven temperature of 425˚F but the recipe can be adjusted to roast the carrots alongside a meat that is roasting in the same oven at a different temperature.  Extend the carrots' cooking time by 5-10 minutes if you are cooking another dish at 350-375˚F. 

Vitamin A is one of the nutrients that needs fat in which to work its wonders.  The olive oil in the recipe helps here.  Or enjoy any other monomonounsaturated fats as part fo the meal including avocado, nuts, olives and their oils.

Braise-Roasted Carrots
Serves 2-3 generously, recipe doubles easily

Ingredients
1 pound carrots
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1/2 cup broth or water
salt, pepper
optional: herbs/spices like paprika, dill, tumeric, crushed fennel, margoram

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Peel carrots.  Cut lengthwise and in half if very large.  Otherwise leave whole.
  3. Toss carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper.  
  4. Place carrots in a shallow baking pan and cover with broth or water.  Cover pan with tin foil.  
  5. Bake carrots at 425˚F for 10 minutes.*  Remove tin foil.  Carrots will still be quite firm and there will be some water in pan.
  6. Return carrots to the oven, uncovered and roast an additional 10-15 minutes until water has evaporated and carrots are beginning to brown underneath.  Shake the pan as needed to prevent any sticking.   
  7. During last few minutes of roasting, toss carrots with any desired extra herbs/spices if using. (The carrots are quite wonderful left as is but if the rest of your meal is heading in a specific direction you can add a complimentary herb or spice at this stage.)
*Adjust time to suit the thickness of your carrots.  Thick chunks (1") versus thin slices (1/4") vary in cooking time by about 10 minutes.  

Elegant Life Leftovers
Follow up Roasted Carrots with Roasted Carrot Soup for lunch the next day.  Trouble is, there won't be many leftover carrots so if you want to try the soup, make extra roasted carrots. 

Roasted Carrot Soup
Ingredients

....For every cup of sliced cooked carrots:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped celery, onion or fennel (or a combination)
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon tumeric

Method
  1. Heat a skillet to medium and add olive oil.  Saute chopped vegetables until tender.  
  2. Add 1/2 the chicken broth and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes.  
  3. Combine carrots with remaining chicken broth, coconut milk, ginger and tumeric in a blender or a deep pot that will allow you to use an immersion blender.  Add in vegetable mixture from skillet.  
  4. Puree soup.  Soup may be eaten chilled or heated.  
Serve with yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro.