It is a most wonderful time of the year to be out in the countryside, and taking those back roads to wherever you’re heading. It is on those back roads that you find the most enticing vegetable stands with an assortment of fruits, jars of honey and bunches of flowers. There are always apples and pears, all kinds of different winter squashes, and carrots—those healthy, long, slender, edible orange roots.
Carrots can be boring, but that may be the cook’s fault. People used to think carrots were only good to give to horses to make their coats shine. The horses sensibly ate their carrots and never told a soul how good they were raw.
Carrots are an amazingly versatile vegetable—so bright and golden and crunchy. You can eat them raw, juiced, cooked, in cakes, cookies or puddings. They are delicious pickled: Cook 2 pounds of carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally, until crisp-tender; drain well. Add one small onion, sliced in thin rounds, and one small green bell pepper, sliced thin. Make a marinade with 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, 3/4 cup of cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon each of prepared mustard and salt, and 1 cup of sugar. Pour over the carrots and refrigerate overnight. Makes four pints.
You can also make a vinaigrette: Cook 6 medium carrots in a small amount of boiling salted water until tender, 20-30 minutes. When the carrots are cool, slip off the skins and cut in halves. Combine 1/3 cup of cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 cup of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon each of prepared mustard and instant minced onion, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and 1 tablespoon of minced parsley, and whisk together until well blended. Pour over carrots and marinate in refrigerator overnight. Drain and serve.
There is even an old-time recipe for carrot cough syrup: To a cupful of boiled-down carrot water add half a pound of loaf sugar and cook until it is syrupy. Some say that this is the cheapest, best and safest cough medicine now or ever in use.
But most of us prefer to simply eat our carrots as part of our meal.
HORSERADISH CREAMED CARROTS
2 pounds of carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
3/4 cup of mayonnaise
1/3 cup of half-and-half cream
1/4 cup of prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons of butter, melted
Place 1 inch of water in a saucepan; add carrots. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain.
In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, cream, horseradish, onion, salt and pepper; add the carrots and toss to coat. Transfer to a greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Combine crumbs and butter; sprinkle over carrots. Bake, uncovered, in 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Serves 6.
One bunch of carrots, peeled, diced and cooked
4-oz. can of diced green chilies
3-oz. pkg. of cream cheese
1/4 cup of heavy cream
Salt to taste
Cut cream cheese into small cubes; put into saucepan with cream and stir over low heat until cheese is melted. Add carrots and chilies and heat.
BALSAMIC-BUTTER GLAZED BABY CARROTS
3 one-pound bags of baby carrots
6 cups of water
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
6 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of minced fresh thyme
2 teaspoons of chopped fresh tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine carrots and water in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes or until carrots are crisp-tender. Drain and keep warm. Cook vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat 4-5 minutes or until reduced by half. Stir in brown sugar and butter until smooth. Pour vinegar mixture over warm carrots, tossing to coat. Stir in thyme, tarragon, salt and pepper. Serves 6.
A favorite of mine is to cook the carrots until crisp-tender; drain. Add a bit of butter and some orange marmalade, mix well and serve.
Or oven-roast the carrots: Arrange 1 1/2 pounds of baby carrots in single layer on a baking sheet; add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of finely grated orange peel, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and toss. Pour 1/3 cup of orange juice over; cover tightly with foil and roast in preheated 400-degree oven until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Remove foil. Increase oven to 450 degrees, drizzle 1 /12 tablespoons of honey over the carrots, and roast uncovered until the carrots are tender and browned in spots, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer carrots and any juices to platter; drizzle lightly with additional olive oil. Serves 4.
3 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 cup of milk
2 pounds of carrots, cooked and mashed (2 cups)
3 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of fine breadcrumbs
1 cup of light cream
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 cup of cream sherry
Beat egg yolks and sugar until light; set aside. Mix cornstarch with small amount of milk. Heat remaining milk, add cornstarch and stir until smooth and slightly thickened. Stir small amount of hot cornstarch mixture into egg yolks and sugar. Stir to mix well, then return to hot milk and cornstarch, cooking and stirring over medium heat until smooth and thick. Add carrots, butter, salt, and breadcrumbs; blend evenly. Stir in cream and add nutmeg and sherry; mix well. Beat egg whites until they hold firm peaks; fold into carrot mixture. Pour into greased 2-quart casserole. Place in pan of hot water and bake in preheated 300-degree oven for 30 minutes. Increase heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 45 minutes or until it tests done. Serves 10-12.
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of vegetable oil
2 cups of grated carrots
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1 cup of flaked coconut
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 can of 8-oz. crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Mix sugar, eggs, oil, carrots, walnuts, coconut, vanilla and pineapple together until well blended. Mix together flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. Blend all ingredients well by hand. Pour into a 9×13-inch greased baking pan and bake in preheated 325-degree oven about 1 hour or until tests done. Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.
Carrots are one of the very few vegetables that England can claim is truly native. English ladies in the court of Charles I were so delighted with the delicate fernlike foliage of the carrots that they wore it in their hair as decoration. So many good ways to use carrots!
HINT OF THE MONTH: Remove carrot greenery as soon as possible because it robs the roots of moisture and vitamins. Store carrots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s vegetable bin, and never near apples, which emit ethylene gas that can give carrots a bitter taste.
Marian Platt's regional narrative cookbook of Washington’s Sequim Valley, From My Kitchen Window, can be ordered by sending cash, check or money order for $25 (includes tax and handling/mailing costs) to Marian Platt, 434 Chicken Coop Rd., Sequim, WA 98382. Phone (360) 683-4691