Let them eat…carrots!

Roasted rainbow carrots with toasted cumin and a blood orange vinaigrette, to be exact!

I should have celebrated 3.14.15 (Pi) day with pie, but we somehow didn’t get around to that with all of the other festivities planned for my birthday.  Nor did we have cake, which I guess is a little odd but not missed.  It was the first birthday J and I were able to celebrate together in the same place, so he took it upon himself to plan it all.  Knowing how I’ve missed my friends while in NYC, he somehow managed to gather people from all different phases of my life (college, SF/residency, NYC/fellowship) for fun and food.  As it so happens, my college roommate’s birthday is Pi day, so we were able to celebrate with her, too.  We were just missing pie!  Between dim sum, macarons, wine flights, and late – night tapas, however, there was no time (or calorie deficit) to allow for pie (or cake).

Amidst all the indulgences of the weekend, it was so nice to cleanse the palate with something a little lighter, which somehow bridges the winter-spring transition quite nicely using winter citrus and root vegetables, for perhaps the last time.  I’ve always loved having a March birthday – it’s always a month of hope regardless of where you live, as the vestiges of winter are shaken off and spring warmth slowly seeps in.  We lose some of that seasonality in CA, but even here you can feel the difference as March roars in but leaves gentle green buds in its wake.

This late winter salad, inspired by Ludo Lefebvre’s Roasted Carrot Salad, surprised J into saying “You may make me into a vegetarian yet.”  Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene and vitamin A.  Enjoy!

Roasted Rainbow Carrot Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette

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Ingredients:

For the carrots:

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-1½ pounds small rainbow carrots, approximately 5 inches in length, scrubbed clean and tops trimmed (if using larger carrots, peel and slice into sticks about 4-5 inches in length)
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 6 cloves of unpeeled garlic, smashed (use more if you like garlic)
  • 5 to 7 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the blood orange vinaigrette:

  • 2 blood oranges, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  •  cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the cumin crema:

  • 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt (Fage)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  •  Pinch kosher salt

For the salad:

  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped roasted almonds
  • 2 blood oranges, cut into supremes
  • 3-4 tablespoons of chopped herbs: parsley, tarragon, chervil, or chives
  •  Kosher salt or fleur de sel

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Toast the cumin for both the carrots and the yogurt in a small pan set over medium heat until it becomes aromatic. Remove from heat, and set aside.
  2. Mix together the carrots, bay leaf, smashed garlic, thyme and olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon cumin over the carrots, and mix again.
  3. Tip the carrot mixture onto a sheet pan, and spread evenly into one layer.  Season with salt and pepper and place in oven. Roast until the carrots are soft and beginning to caramelize, 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Remove carrots from oven, discard aromatics and set aside to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Combine blood-orange juice, vinegar, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl, and whisk to incorporate. Slowly add the olive oil while continuing to whisk, until the dressing is emulsified. Add the carrots to the bowl, and toss to combine.
  6. Make the cumin crema by combining the nonfat Fage greek yogurt, lemon juice and remaining toasted cumin in a mixing bowl.  Stir well to combine.  Add a pinch of salt.
  7. Assemble the salad on a large serving plate. Put the cumin crema in the center of the plate, and using the back of a spoon, spread it evenly across the bottom. Arrange the carrots on top of the greek yogurt. Sprinkle the onion and the nuts on top of the carrots, then add the supremes of blood orange. Sprinkle the herbs across the top of the salad, and finish with a pinch or two of salt. Make a mess when serving, so that everyone gets plenty of the cumin crema along with the vegetables.

When life gives you kumquats…

…make a salad!  Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but that is quite literally what I did the other day, instead of simply snacking on these delightful little fruits.

I love the orderly chaos that is the kitchen.  Unlike life’s chaos, there is a method to the madness:  all the chopping, slicing, dicing, sauteeing, simmering, roasting, and basting ultimately comes together to make a cohesive dish, with all its disparate components somehow harmonized.

For dinner the other night, I made a riff on Plenty More‘s Celery Salad with Feta and Soft-Boiled Egg, using instead my beloved kumquats.  So simple and satisfying.  And so therapeutic, to shift my focus to slicing everything as thinly and uniformly as I could.

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Celery Salad with Feta, Kumquats, and Soft-Boiled Egg (serves 2 as a light dinner or side salad)

Ingredients:

  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced lengthwise into strips
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp superfine sugar
  • ~10 kumquats (or as desired), thinly sliced into rings, with seeds removed
  • 1/3 cup celery leaves
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbl capers
  • 1 green chile, seeded and finely sliced
  • 1 tbl olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 oz/100 gm) feta, crumbled into large chunks
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

  1. After slicing celery, green peppers, and onion thinly, place in a bowl, sprinkle with sugar and 1/4 tsp salt, and mix well.  Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the vegetables to soften and to draw out some of the juices, which will comprise part of the dressing.  IMG_3242
  2. Add the kumquats, celery leaves, parsley, cilantro, capers, chiles, and olive oil to the softened vegetables.  Mix gently to combine.  Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.  IMG_3243
  3. Just before serving, carefully spoon eggs into a saucepan of boiling water and simmer gently for 6 minutes.  Run under cold water until the eggs are just cool enough to handle but still warm, then peel gently; the yolk should still be runny.
  4. Arrange the salad on individual plates, dot each with feta, and place a soft-boiled egg on top, broken in the middle.  Finish with a few drops of olive oil and freshly ground pepper and serve at once.