I have a friend who is a political wife in the Washington D.C. area. She is a fabulous cook and puts together an informative cookbook every few years as her husband campaigns for re-election. As I was reading her current work before publication, I was struck by the bounty of easy-to-prepare, tasty vegetable recipes. They were designed to bring out the natural flavor and sweetness of each vegetable. I couldn’t wait to try the one for roasted carrots that you cut like French fries. I wasn’t disappointed. Such a simple idea with such great taste!
Carrots are a humble vegetable but can be elevated to superstar status. They originated in Asia and were popular with the early Romans and Greeks. Carrots are low in calories and a rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially A, K, C, potassium and the B complex.
Carrots get their orange color from Beta-carotene, an antioxident compound that fights free radicals, the unstable molecules in the body that contribute to aging and disease.
Carrots are by far one of the richest sources of carotenoids; just one cup provides around 16,000 IUs of Beta-carotene and more than 250 percent of the RDA.
Researchers say carrots contain alpha-carotene, which may help in the fight against cancer. According to a study at the National Cancer Institiute, lung cancer occurred more often in men with low levels of alpha-carotene.
Beta-carotene converts to Vitamin A and helps prevent night blindness by forming a purple pigment needed by the eye. During WW2, researchers developed carrots high in Beta-carotene to help pilots to see better at night.
When buying carrots, select firm fresh ones that are free from cracks and soft spots. Super fresh carrots can be scrubbed with a vegetable brush under cool running water. Otherwise, you might need to peel them. Smaller carrots and carrots with the tops attached are sweeter than larger carrots. Sometimes I run across red or yellow heirloom carrots in natural food markets. The red carrots are extra sweet and have a brilliant red color when cooked. Some of these special varieties are better for cooking than eating raw.
If you eat too many carrots, you may experience a condition called carotenosis, which gives the skin an orange hue – attractive on leaves and blog pages but not on people. This is common with babies, fed jars of pureed carrots, squash and sweet potatoes. Beta-carotene needs a little fat for your body to absorb it. It a great idea to serve those raw carrot sticks with a dip or coat the raw veggy in oil before roasting. Cooking carrots a bit actually helps your body absorb more of the Beta-carotene. Roasting is an excellent way to preserve the nutrients instead of boiling, since they literally go down the drain.
Here is a blueprint for the carrot French fry recipe. For this post, I am going to call it Victory Carrots. (Perhaps I should call it, ‘Freedom Fries’ as French fries were called in the cafeteria menus of the three House office buildings on Capitol Hill in 2003. ) The dish is great for mealtimes and looks beautiful on the plate. It is good for in-between-meal snacks, if any is leftover. Enjoy the carrots right out of the oven hot or cold or in between.
My friend says her kids love the carrots with ketchup. I tried this and it is really quite tasty. They might be good with British-style Mushroom Ketchup, although I haven’t tried it. Mushroom Ketchup is thin, more like a condiment, so I would just spinkle a few drops over the carrots as they come from the oven. There is a recipe for Musroom Ketchup in The New Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. Your kids would probably prefer one of H.J.Heinz Co.’s crazy-colored ketchups that have appeared in purple, orange, teal or pink.
You don’t really need a recipe the method is so simple. Thin, small carrots simply need to be trimmed and cut in half. You can try this method with pre-peeled baby carrots. Hardy rosemary is my first choice of herb, especially since I have a huge bush growing just outside my kitchen door. Herb leaves that are especially delicate can be minced and stirred in after cooking to preserve the color and texture.
Once when I made this carrot dish I stirred in a big tablespoon of my tangy homemade kumquat-orange sauce, just as it came from the oven. It was really yummy. I happen to have a prolific kumquat tree growing nearby the rosemary bush. You could add a heaping tablespoon of apricot preserves or orange marmalade. Don’t add too much – just a hint of the sweetness is enough.
This simple recipe is perfection in every way, but it did get my creative juices flowing. I though of other vegetables and seasoning blends I could add. I came up with a few ideas and listed some below. I like to use organic carrots for this dish. You might seriously think about doubling the recipe – they are that good.
Fran’s Victory Carrots
About 1 pound scrubbed carrots, cut into 3-inch by 1/2-inch sticks
Fresh chopped herbs (such as rosemary, marjoram, tarragon, dill)
Fresh ground black pepper, if desired
Mix carrot sticks with olive oil (2 or 3 tablespoons), herbs and seasonings, to taste. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting pan. Roast in a hot oven, 475 about 10 min or at 400 degrees about 15-17 minutes. Stir once while cooking. Don’t overcook the carrots; they should be crisp-tender. Carrots will have a light brown, crusty exterior, deep orange interior and taste naturally sweet.
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
Sprinkle mixture over carrots after they are coated with the olive oil. If you like, stir in one or two tablespoons fresh lemon juice or orange juice. After they are roasted, stir in 2 or 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro. Keep the seasonings light so the natural flavor of the carrots comes through.
Honey Roasted Carrots: Drizzle roasted carrots with one to two tablespoons honey. You can also use maple syrup.
Roasted Carrots with Parsnips: Add 1 pound of parsnip strips to the carrots. Sliced shallots are a nice addition, as well. Roast veggies until done then coat with with 1 or 2 tablespoons soft butter mixed with fresh minced chives.
Balsamic Carrots: When the carrots come from the oven, stir in 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.
Roasted Carrot Dip or Spread: Roast carrots with a small onion. Put veggies in the blender with a little chicken stock, cumin, salt and lemon juice. Puree and chill before serving. Stir in minced fresh parsley or cilantro, to taste. Thin with additional chicken stock for a tasty soup