Take plain carrots for culinary spin

News Oct 02, 2009 Ancaster News

Having been used in countless dishes around the world for centuries, carrots can seem ordinary. But if you dig a bit, you'll uncover a plant with an interesting history to go along with its culinary flexibility.

According to the World Carrot Museum website (carrotmuseum. co.uk), dedicated to all things carrot-related, the wild carrot is the progenitor (wild ancestor) of the cultivated carrot. Over thousands of years the carrot moved from being a small, tough, bitter and spindly root to a fleshy, sweet, pigmented, unbranched, edible root. The website says carrots originated in what is now Afghanistan about 5,000 years ago.

According to the Oxford Companion to Food, the Dutch were foremost in the cultivation of carrots, and the popularity of yellow varieties caused purple ones to fall from favour. The book says the first sign of a truly orange carrot is in 17th-century Dutch paintings. Orange carrots were first described in Dutch literature in the 18th century.

It didn't take long for the orange carrot to become the carrot of choice and that, of course, remains true today.

One look at their lush, leafy green top and it won't surprise you to learn the carrot is a member of the parsley family. If buying carrots with that greenery, make sure the leaves are bright green and lively looking and that the carrots below are firm and free of cracks.

Carrot Salad with Walnuts, Mint and Balsamic Vinegar

I used a mix of different coloured carrots in this recipe, but you could simply use orange ones if that's all you can find. Makes 4 to 6 servings

18 small to medium-sized snap-top (greens attached) carrots

3 tablespoons (50 mL) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons (30 mL) balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh mint

1/3 cup (75 mL) walnut pieces, lightly toasted (see Note) * salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the tops off the carrots, leaving about one inch of green stem. Scrub the carrots well, but do not peel. Cut each carrot in half lengthwise. Set in a wide skillet, cover with cold water and boil until firm/tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well, cool in ice-cold water, and then drain well again.

Arrange the carrots on a platter. Drizzle with the oil and vinegar; sprinkle with mint, walnuts, salt and pepper. Let flavours meld at room temperature 10 minutes, and then serve. Note: To toast the walnuts, place them in a skillet set over medium heat.

Cook, swirling the pan from time to time, until the walnuts are aromatic and lightly toasted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Preparation time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 3 to 4 minutes

Carrot Soup with Pistou

An easy-to-make carrot soup dressed up with a basil-rich mixture called pistou. Pistou is a French-style pesto made without nuts.

Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

1 3/4 lb. (759 g) carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 medium onion, halved and sliced 3 tablespoons (50 mL) flour

5 cups (1.25 L) chicken or vegetable stock * salt and white pepper to taste

2 cups (500 mL) loosely packed fresh basil leaves 2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil

* small fresh basil leaves, for garnish (optional)

Place the 2 tablespoons (30 mL) oil in a soup pot set over medium heat. Add the carrots and onions and saute 4 to 5 minutes. Mix in the flour and cook 2 minutes more. Slowly mix in the stock. Simmer the soup 15 minutes, or until the carrots are very tender.

While the soup cooks, make the pistou by placing the basil, garlic and cheese in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Pour in the oil and pulse until it is well incorporated. Add more oil if you find the pistou too thick.

When the carrots are tender, puree in a food processor or in the pot with an immersion blender. Return to a simmer; season with salt and pepper. Pour the soup into bowls, top with a generous amount of the pistou, garnish each bowl with a small basil leaf, if desired, and serve. Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

Pan-seared Scallops on Carrot and Squash Mash with Sherry Ginger Cream Sauce

Succulent scallops set upon an earthy mix of carrots and squash, all drizzled with sumptuous cream sauce. Makes 4 servings

2 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 small butternut squash, quartered lengthwise, seeded, peeled and cubed

1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter * salt and white pepper to taste

1/4 cup (50 mL) dry sherry 2 teaspoons (10 mL) finely chopped fresh ginger

1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream 2 to 3 teaspoons (10-15 mL) snipped fresh chives

20 large scallops, patted dry 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

* chive slices, for garnish (optional)

Boil the carrots and squash until very tender. Drain well and thoroughly mash. Mix in the butter, salt and pepper. Transfer to a heatproof dish, cover and keep warm in a 200 F (95 C) oven until needed.

Place the sherry and ginger in a small pot. Simmer the sherry until reduced by half. Add the cream and simmer and reduce until a lightly thickened sauce forms. Stir in the chives, salt and pepper. Cover and reserve on low heat until needed. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook and sear the scallops 1 minute on each side, or until just cooked through. Divide and mound the mashed carrots and squash in the centre of each of four dinner plates. Arrange five scallops on top of the mashed vegetables.

Drizzle with the cream sauce, garnish with chive slices, if desired, and serve.

Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking time: About 25 minutes

Take plain carrots for culinary spin

News Oct 02, 2009 Ancaster News

Having been used in countless dishes around the world for centuries, carrots can seem ordinary. But if you dig a bit, you'll uncover a plant with an interesting history to go along with its culinary flexibility.

According to the World Carrot Museum website (carrotmuseum. co.uk), dedicated to all things carrot-related, the wild carrot is the progenitor (wild ancestor) of the cultivated carrot. Over thousands of years the carrot moved from being a small, tough, bitter and spindly root to a fleshy, sweet, pigmented, unbranched, edible root. The website says carrots originated in what is now Afghanistan about 5,000 years ago.

According to the Oxford Companion to Food, the Dutch were foremost in the cultivation of carrots, and the popularity of yellow varieties caused purple ones to fall from favour. The book says the first sign of a truly orange carrot is in 17th-century Dutch paintings. Orange carrots were first described in Dutch literature in the 18th century.

It didn't take long for the orange carrot to become the carrot of choice and that, of course, remains true today.

One look at their lush, leafy green top and it won't surprise you to learn the carrot is a member of the parsley family. If buying carrots with that greenery, make sure the leaves are bright green and lively looking and that the carrots below are firm and free of cracks.

Carrot Salad with Walnuts, Mint and Balsamic Vinegar

I used a mix of different coloured carrots in this recipe, but you could simply use orange ones if that's all you can find. Makes 4 to 6 servings

18 small to medium-sized snap-top (greens attached) carrots

3 tablespoons (50 mL) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons (30 mL) balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh mint

1/3 cup (75 mL) walnut pieces, lightly toasted (see Note) * salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the tops off the carrots, leaving about one inch of green stem. Scrub the carrots well, but do not peel. Cut each carrot in half lengthwise. Set in a wide skillet, cover with cold water and boil until firm/tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well, cool in ice-cold water, and then drain well again.

Arrange the carrots on a platter. Drizzle with the oil and vinegar; sprinkle with mint, walnuts, salt and pepper. Let flavours meld at room temperature 10 minutes, and then serve. Note: To toast the walnuts, place them in a skillet set over medium heat.

Cook, swirling the pan from time to time, until the walnuts are aromatic and lightly toasted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Preparation time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 3 to 4 minutes

Carrot Soup with Pistou

An easy-to-make carrot soup dressed up with a basil-rich mixture called pistou. Pistou is a French-style pesto made without nuts.

Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

1 3/4 lb. (759 g) carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 medium onion, halved and sliced 3 tablespoons (50 mL) flour

5 cups (1.25 L) chicken or vegetable stock * salt and white pepper to taste

2 cups (500 mL) loosely packed fresh basil leaves 2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil

* small fresh basil leaves, for garnish (optional)

Place the 2 tablespoons (30 mL) oil in a soup pot set over medium heat. Add the carrots and onions and saute 4 to 5 minutes. Mix in the flour and cook 2 minutes more. Slowly mix in the stock. Simmer the soup 15 minutes, or until the carrots are very tender.

While the soup cooks, make the pistou by placing the basil, garlic and cheese in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Pour in the oil and pulse until it is well incorporated. Add more oil if you find the pistou too thick.

When the carrots are tender, puree in a food processor or in the pot with an immersion blender. Return to a simmer; season with salt and pepper. Pour the soup into bowls, top with a generous amount of the pistou, garnish each bowl with a small basil leaf, if desired, and serve. Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

Pan-seared Scallops on Carrot and Squash Mash with Sherry Ginger Cream Sauce

Succulent scallops set upon an earthy mix of carrots and squash, all drizzled with sumptuous cream sauce. Makes 4 servings

2 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 small butternut squash, quartered lengthwise, seeded, peeled and cubed

1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter * salt and white pepper to taste

1/4 cup (50 mL) dry sherry 2 teaspoons (10 mL) finely chopped fresh ginger

1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream 2 to 3 teaspoons (10-15 mL) snipped fresh chives

20 large scallops, patted dry 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

* chive slices, for garnish (optional)

Boil the carrots and squash until very tender. Drain well and thoroughly mash. Mix in the butter, salt and pepper. Transfer to a heatproof dish, cover and keep warm in a 200 F (95 C) oven until needed.

Place the sherry and ginger in a small pot. Simmer the sherry until reduced by half. Add the cream and simmer and reduce until a lightly thickened sauce forms. Stir in the chives, salt and pepper. Cover and reserve on low heat until needed. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook and sear the scallops 1 minute on each side, or until just cooked through. Divide and mound the mashed carrots and squash in the centre of each of four dinner plates. Arrange five scallops on top of the mashed vegetables.

Drizzle with the cream sauce, garnish with chive slices, if desired, and serve.

Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking time: About 25 minutes

Take plain carrots for culinary spin

News Oct 02, 2009 Ancaster News

Having been used in countless dishes around the world for centuries, carrots can seem ordinary. But if you dig a bit, you'll uncover a plant with an interesting history to go along with its culinary flexibility.

According to the World Carrot Museum website (carrotmuseum. co.uk), dedicated to all things carrot-related, the wild carrot is the progenitor (wild ancestor) of the cultivated carrot. Over thousands of years the carrot moved from being a small, tough, bitter and spindly root to a fleshy, sweet, pigmented, unbranched, edible root. The website says carrots originated in what is now Afghanistan about 5,000 years ago.

According to the Oxford Companion to Food, the Dutch were foremost in the cultivation of carrots, and the popularity of yellow varieties caused purple ones to fall from favour. The book says the first sign of a truly orange carrot is in 17th-century Dutch paintings. Orange carrots were first described in Dutch literature in the 18th century.

It didn't take long for the orange carrot to become the carrot of choice and that, of course, remains true today.

One look at their lush, leafy green top and it won't surprise you to learn the carrot is a member of the parsley family. If buying carrots with that greenery, make sure the leaves are bright green and lively looking and that the carrots below are firm and free of cracks.

Carrot Salad with Walnuts, Mint and Balsamic Vinegar

I used a mix of different coloured carrots in this recipe, but you could simply use orange ones if that's all you can find. Makes 4 to 6 servings

18 small to medium-sized snap-top (greens attached) carrots

3 tablespoons (50 mL) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons (30 mL) balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh mint

1/3 cup (75 mL) walnut pieces, lightly toasted (see Note) * salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the tops off the carrots, leaving about one inch of green stem. Scrub the carrots well, but do not peel. Cut each carrot in half lengthwise. Set in a wide skillet, cover with cold water and boil until firm/tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well, cool in ice-cold water, and then drain well again.

Arrange the carrots on a platter. Drizzle with the oil and vinegar; sprinkle with mint, walnuts, salt and pepper. Let flavours meld at room temperature 10 minutes, and then serve. Note: To toast the walnuts, place them in a skillet set over medium heat.

Cook, swirling the pan from time to time, until the walnuts are aromatic and lightly toasted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Preparation time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 3 to 4 minutes

Carrot Soup with Pistou

An easy-to-make carrot soup dressed up with a basil-rich mixture called pistou. Pistou is a French-style pesto made without nuts.

Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

1 3/4 lb. (759 g) carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 medium onion, halved and sliced 3 tablespoons (50 mL) flour

5 cups (1.25 L) chicken or vegetable stock * salt and white pepper to taste

2 cups (500 mL) loosely packed fresh basil leaves 2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil

* small fresh basil leaves, for garnish (optional)

Place the 2 tablespoons (30 mL) oil in a soup pot set over medium heat. Add the carrots and onions and saute 4 to 5 minutes. Mix in the flour and cook 2 minutes more. Slowly mix in the stock. Simmer the soup 15 minutes, or until the carrots are very tender.

While the soup cooks, make the pistou by placing the basil, garlic and cheese in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Pour in the oil and pulse until it is well incorporated. Add more oil if you find the pistou too thick.

When the carrots are tender, puree in a food processor or in the pot with an immersion blender. Return to a simmer; season with salt and pepper. Pour the soup into bowls, top with a generous amount of the pistou, garnish each bowl with a small basil leaf, if desired, and serve. Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

Pan-seared Scallops on Carrot and Squash Mash with Sherry Ginger Cream Sauce

Succulent scallops set upon an earthy mix of carrots and squash, all drizzled with sumptuous cream sauce. Makes 4 servings

2 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 small butternut squash, quartered lengthwise, seeded, peeled and cubed

1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter * salt and white pepper to taste

1/4 cup (50 mL) dry sherry 2 teaspoons (10 mL) finely chopped fresh ginger

1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream 2 to 3 teaspoons (10-15 mL) snipped fresh chives

20 large scallops, patted dry 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

* chive slices, for garnish (optional)

Boil the carrots and squash until very tender. Drain well and thoroughly mash. Mix in the butter, salt and pepper. Transfer to a heatproof dish, cover and keep warm in a 200 F (95 C) oven until needed.

Place the sherry and ginger in a small pot. Simmer the sherry until reduced by half. Add the cream and simmer and reduce until a lightly thickened sauce forms. Stir in the chives, salt and pepper. Cover and reserve on low heat until needed. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook and sear the scallops 1 minute on each side, or until just cooked through. Divide and mound the mashed carrots and squash in the centre of each of four dinner plates. Arrange five scallops on top of the mashed vegetables.

Drizzle with the cream sauce, garnish with chive slices, if desired, and serve.

Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking time: About 25 minutes