As a child, I loved the sweet raw carrots we would eat straight from my oma's garden. She would scrub them clean, and we would eat them wet, the green tops dangling, still fragrant with earth. Cooked carrots were not a thing I experienced much in my youth, outside of stews or soups or pot pies. We ate our carrots crunchy. Maybe this is why I never developed a taste for the sugar-glazed carrots that so often appear on holiday tables in the United States. It just seems inappropriate to drench carrots, so sweet in their natural state, with sugar. Gilding the lily, as it were.
But as with so many vegetables, roasting has a transformative effect on the carrot. Sweeter yet, but not sugary. More tender, but not mushy. The flavors and natural sugars refined and concentrated, not leached out by cooking water or hidden in syrup. To me, roasting is the only cooking method that actually improves upon the carrot itself.
Not that the carrot actually needs improving. It's done pretty well on its own. A humble lunchbox staple today, the carrot has a long history, originating probably from wild cultivars in Afghanistan.
The first carrots were found in a range of colors including purple, red, yellow, and white -- but not orange. (These colors -- and shades in between, from deep eggplant to maroon to pale lemon -- are making a comeback today. Look for them in your local farmstand markets.)
Ancient Greeks and Romans developed an appreciation for carrots, believing they contained properties beneficial to health and romantic, er, enthusiasm. By the thirteenth century, carrots were being cultivated in China, Japan, and India.
The orange carrot we know today didn't come along until sometime during the 1500s, and we can thank the Dutch for that incarnation. Conceived as something of a novelty to venerate the Dutch royal family, that is, the House of Orange, Dutch farmers cross-bred yellow and red carrots and the rest is history.
Loaded with carotenoids, carrots are also an excellent source of vitamin A. Plus, they contain fiber; vitamins C, K, and B6; manganese; folate; iron; copper; and potassium. They contain no fat or cholesterol and are considered low in sodium.
Sweet, savory, and tangy with citrus -- this is one of my favorite ways to prepare carrots as a side dish, and, not coincidentally, it's also one of the easiest!
Try these roasted carrots alongside any kind of grilled meat or poultry, and if you have any left over, dice them up and add them to a batch of couscous or rice for color and flavor.
Roasted Carrots with Cumin and Lime
- 8 carrots, washed and peeled
- 1/2 lime, cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Lime wedges to garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Cut carrots in half and quarter each half lengthwise. Place carrot pieces in a large mixing bowl and squeeze lime juice over. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to coat evenly. Pour carrots out onto baking sheet in a single layer and roast at 425 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Using a broad spatula, turn carrots over halfway through roasting
Serve with lime wedges, if desired.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
This recipe is submitted for the Vegetables, Beautiful Vegetables 2008 event. Interested in submitting a recipe of your own or viewing the round-up? Check it out!