Posts Tagged ‘Roasted carrot Romesco’

Garden Errors

In my last post I mentioned using finely chopped carrot leaves in an herb pesto, and it occurred to me that there is a bit more to say about this because it pertains to what to do when things go wrong in the garden. The brief answer is: see if you can eat them anyway, maybe in some other form.

This spring I used all my allotted carrot space on an heirloom carrot called Oxheart, because it was billed as not only tasty but short and thick, perfect for my heavy soil. And it was a very nice carrot indeed except that at the four month point most of the row shot to seed, jettisoning the typical biennial habit of right-thinking carrots. So there I was with no carrots for fall and winter and a row of ferny foliage and lacy white blossoms so pretty that I hated to tear them out.

So I began experimenting with how to eat them anyway.  The ones already blooming were left in place for bee fodder.  The ones that were just beginning to throw up short bloom stalks, with stalks less than 6 inches high when I discovered them, were pan-grilled as whole shoots, a tasty and delicious use.

Carrot shoot in the center

This left a large number that were beyond the shoot stage and beginning to form buds, but not yet blooming.  The leaves were still tender, and I began to gather them to add to cooked greens mixtures, and then began to use them chopped finely as a garnish, much in the manner of parsley. They taste different, of course, but have a fresh green flavor with a dose of terpene that I found very attractive.  They are loaded with vitamin K, if that is of interest to you.

This left the stems, and I found that they too had a use, although they are a little tedious to prepare.  The top half of the stem can have the fibrous outsides pulled off and you’ll see a crisp green pith  that has a fresh juicy flavor a little bit like celery but with a carrotty tang.  There is an inner fibrous layer that doesn’t come off, so you have to cut them in cross-sections no more than a quarter inch long.  They add a nice crisp crunch with a fresh flavor to nearly anything, especially herb pestos and chimichurris.  When in doubt about whether a particular segment of the stem is edible, peel it as well as you can and then bite into it. If your teeth do not go cleanly through it and nasty threads are left hanging off the end, don’t bother with it.

Peeled carrot stalks shown to the right, chopped carrot leaves and thyme at the top

The roots of carrots that have shot up a bloomscape are no longer tender, but they can still be peeled, sliced, roasted, and made into flexible Romesco or roasted carrot hummus, proving the carrot’s status as a true nose-to-tail vegetable.

Above, gone-to-flower carrots were oven-roasted for carrot Romesco, but don’t try to eat them as plain roasted carrots at this point, because they are fairly tough.

I should add that creative harvesting is like foraging; never make assumptions about safety. The fact that one part of a plant is edible and safe never means that another part is.   As it happens, I already knew that carrot leaves and stalks were safe to eat, and most problems that happen when foragers try to eat wild carrots come from dangerous misidentification with poisonous, even deadly, members of the same family.  So if you gather carrotty looking things outside your own garden, be very, very sure that you know what you are looking at.

Once all of the above is said, I have to add that I would rather have had winter carrots, and next time I will be a little more careful with my seed source. But an error here and there keeps our thinking fresh.

Flexible Romesco Sauce

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I’m a great fan of the Spanish Romesco sauce, and while I love it in its classic form, I also find its basic structure an adaptable framework that will support a lot of variations. Right now I’m digging up last year’s Autumn King carrots to make room  for a new planting. They are too tough now for eating fresh, but they are still sweet and flavorful, so I’m using some to make roasted carrot Romesco sauce.

To start, turn the oven on to 500 degrees. Then one large Autumn King carrot (or two regular carrots) is cut in slices. One small onion is cut in quarters. Three cloves of garlic are separated from their head but not peeled. I use two roasted tomatoes out of my freezer, but you can put in two tomatoes, either fresh or canned plum tomatoes, to roast with the other veggies. Toss the veggies lightly in olive oil and put them on a sheet pan to roast, watching carefully because they can burn quickly.

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When the carrot looks roasted but not burned and the onion is softened and translucent, take the veggies out. Skin the onion and peel the garlic cloves. Put all the roasted stuff in the food processor with half a cup of roasted almonds and grind as finely as possible. If you are using pre-roasted tomatoes, add them now and grind with the rest. Add two teaspoons of any of the following chiles: ground red New Mexico chile, or Spanish Nora chile, or half Spanish smoked Pimenton and half ground chipotle chile. This last mixture adds a beautiful heat and smoky edge, and is my own favorite. Process, and add two tablespoons of either lemon juice or sherry vinegar. I prefer the sherry vinegar, but a Romesco with lemon can be good with shrimp. Now add really good olive oil until the mixture comes together as a somewhat loose paste. Add more chile if needed. Salt to taste; it’s a condiment, and I like it on the salty side. Serve with roasted vegetables, or meat or chicken roasted rather plainly, or slices of baguette, or cold shrimp, or blackened fish, or nearly anything.

There are lots of other possibilities for a good flexible Romesco.  Roasted peeled red peppers are traditional. Roasted winter squash or sweet potato might be good, and I can imagine using roasted kale or chard leaves for a really dark, earthy, and healthy version. In my opinion the roasted tomatoes are necessary, but I’ve seen recipes that don’t include them. Some people prefer toasted bread crumbs to nuts to add body. And I can’t tell you how much sauce this will make, because I don’t know how much olive oil will taste right to you.

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I recently ate it with tiny crisp-fried bits of chicken and low-carb flaxseed focaccia and it was very, very good.