Carrots are a year ’round item at the Hollywood Farmers Market. But this time of year particularly beautiful carrots can be found in an array of colors, sizes and shapes. I love the little round French carrots; so sweet and carroty. They are the perfect size to pop in your mouth like a little carrot bon-bon, and thatâ€™s exactly what I do with them.
So this week I chose carrots for my Market Matters post. Not just any carrot however, I chose a variety of the most unusually colored carrots I could find. Because once you get out of the PigglyWiggly you will discover that there is way more to a carrot than orange. There are red carrots, purple ones, even yellow, white, and two-toned varieties.
You neednâ€™t be frightened of these carrots. They are not some mutinized hybrid with a lot of genetic hanky-panky going on. Nope, most of these carrots are heirlooms.
But beauty is not the only intriguing characteristic of colorful carrots. They also have health benefits. For example you probably knew that orange carrots had high levels of beta-carotene. But did you know that the red varieties contain heart healthy lycopene. This is true of so many other foods too. Color is often an indicator of specific nutrients. That is why people are often telling you to eat a rainbow of fresh garden goodness. This helps insure that you are getting a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to maintain good health.
Which is all well and good. Sup! likes to eat healthy. But letâ€™s face it. What Sup! really likes is eating delicious. These carrots are indeed delicious. They are intensely carroty as you might expect, but many of these carrots have a bolder, spicy carroty flavor.
Spicyâ€“ I like the sound of that. In fact I want to accentuate that.
So hereâ€™s a test question. Just to see if you have been paying attention to all my blather this past year.
When it comes to accentuating and amplifying flavors in root vegetables, what the best method of cooking? Thatâ€™s right! Roasting.
So I am going to roast these carrots and pair them with bold flavors, varied textures and temperatures to create one luscious full mouth of a salad.
Jamie Oliver heavily influenced this salad. He serves a very similar salad in his cookbook Jamie at Home. His version is called Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad with Orange and Lemon Dressing. Itâ€™s a heck of a salad, filled with bold cumin flavor and served with bitter greens. Yummy.
But I am never one to just pick up a cookbook and follow a recipe. Nope, I like to research similar recipes and see what they have to offer. That way I can steal the best qualities of as many recipes as I see fit.
So in cruising the blogosphere I came across Smitten Kitchen. She does a Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad that was inspired by one of my fav â€œgastro-pubsâ€ in New York The Spotted Pig. I love the straight forwardness of her version and can easily imagine the textures of the roast carrots and avocados melding into a mouthful of warmth. But (to me) the strength of her recipe is its clean simplicity. She dresses these velvety textures with the merest spritz of lemon juice. Just the zing to make this salad sing!
So I was left standing on the fulcrum. Both salads emphasized texture. Smitten used the homogeny of similar textures, and Jamie’s was a riot of contrasting textures. One had strong bold flavors layered in a complex way. The other had a purity that really appealed to me!
So naturally I kept features from both versions when I made my own.
From Jamie I kept the bold spice of cumin and ramped that up with the addition of anise seeds, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes. I also followed his lead on texture. Adding crunchy greens and toasted bread cubes as he did.
But I finished this salad very simply with just a squeeze of citrus, just as Smitten Kitchen did. Only I used orange juice from a roasted orange. I felt that the extra sweetness was a good foil against the sharp tang of the mustard greens I used as a base for my warm roasted carrots and cool avocados. I love the diversity of hot and cold, sweet and bitter, smooth and crunchy. The flavors are bold but the textures are luscious. Making this salad an intriguing mouthful.
And if that werenâ€™t enough I brought a bit of Sup! into the mix too with goat cheese! So you see this salad really does have something FROM everyone making it a salad with something FOR everyone.
serves 2 CLICK here for a printable recipe
- 1â„2 t cumin seeds
- 1 t anise seeds
- 1 t black sesame seeds
- 1â„2 t crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
- 2 clv garlic, minced
- 1 orange, zested and then cut in half
- 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 1â„2 pound carrots, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
- 1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 T tarragon flavored vinegar
- Raw mustard greens (or other bitter green)
- 1â„2 t kosher salt, plus 1 tablespoon for the boiling water
- 4 oz goat cheese, softened and crumbled
- 2 T milk or cream (optional)
- 1 small bunch of watercress, washed and trimmed of thick stems
- 2 thick slices of toasted rustic bread cut into 1-inch cubes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small pan set over medium heat toast the seeds until fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes. Divide the seeds in half and set aside separately.
Using a mortar and pestle crush 1/2 of the toasted seeds, red pepper flakes, and salt until the seeds are well pulverized. Add the minced garlic, orange zest and the olive oil. Continue to work the mixture into a well incorporated, but slightly chunky, paste.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add about 1-tablespoon salt and the halved carrots. Boil the carrots until barely cooked about 7 minutes. Drain them in a colander and transfer them to a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the spice paste on top of the carrots while still hot; tossing to get the carrots well coated. Place the zested orange halves onto the baking sheet cut side up. Roast them all in the oven until the carrots are browned and fully cooked, about 25 minutes.
In the mean time, peel and slice the avocados; tossing them in the vinegar until ready to serve the salad.
Blend the goat cheese and milk or cream in a small bowl until creamy, thick and well blended. Set aside until ready to serve. This step is optional; you may choose to simply crumble the cheese on top.
To serve, spread the greens across a serving platter. Top them with the hot carrots and cool avocado slices, mounding (or sprinkling) the goat cheese and the watercress on top. Followed by the toasted bread cubes. Squeeze the juice of the roasted oranges over the salad, discarding the rinds. Sprinkle the remaining toasted seeds on top and serve warm.