Humble Beginnings

A recipe for carrot pasta, and all about carrots.

There are many, many places to start, but we are going to begin with the humble carrot.

Carrots are a great food for our purposes, since they are readily available and affordable. Even organic carrots (which I recommend) are not outside of most of our financial reach. You can even buy them at Costco, which carries giant bags of organic carrots in their regular stock. Which leads me to the first thing I want to say about carrots.

Storage. It doesn’t help to buy the biggest bag of carrots on earth if they are going to rot in the fridge and flop limply in the trash before they can ever morph into the perfect carrot cake. I think, with carrots especially, it helps to know WHY they are going limp and moldy. They go moldy because of damp and time and warmth. They go limp because of dehydration. That’s right; you have to fight both moisture and dehydration (and of course time and warmth) to keep your carrots. How can you win? The best solution that I have found ( as opposed to convoluted techniques involving moist sawdust) is to put them in a closed container (preferably a glass jar), cover with cold water, and keep them in the fridge. The water has to be changed every four days or so, so if that’s not feasible, then neatly dried carrots in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge would be a fine–although not as effective–solution. Water is my preferred answer, and in the water you are even able to help out carrots that have already started to go limp (think dried mushrooms or sundried tomatoes). Highly recommend. (Similary, carrots are good served or stored for lunch or a picnic in a closed container with a few ice cubes. It provides cold and moisture.) Do not freeze carrots, they turn into sponges. And in a pinch, you can set neatly dried carrots out on the counter in a cool house, for a time.

Nutrition. Let’s forget about the carbs, okey? Carrots are good for you, as part of a generally balanced and conscientious diet. They are rich in fiber, carotene/vitamin A, and vitamins B and C, not to mention water, minerals, and phytonutrients. Carrots should be eaten raw as well as cooked. I would really prefer that you not grab those plastic bags of pre-cut carrot nubs, but I suppose it would be better than nothing. Rather, quickly peel your own smallish carrots and cut roughly into threes for dipping or throwing in your lunch pail. Or grab the nubs. Whatever. Just bypass the bottle of conventional ranch and reach for a healthier dip or dressing… but we’ll get to all that eventually.

Uses. Carrots are great as a versatile food: kids love ’em, adults love ’em. They have a natural sweetness that make them star in even desserts. They are sort of bland, which is helpful, too, but are amenable to a variety of spicing. Now for the foodie-ese. Carrots are a basic building block in many of the world’s most influential cuisines. They are both a star, a complement, and occupy a place in the triumvirate of mirepoix (the French combination of onion, celery, and carrot, which the average American cook sees in the base of soups, roasts, and even Spaghetti sauce).

And now for one of our favorite recipes. This does take three pans to make, but it is easy and is a family favorite. It is vegetarian if made with a veggie stock, but could use a little boost of protein to serve (like some spiced chicken or even a handful of peanuts thrown over the top). It serves four in our house.

CREAMY CARROTS AND GREEN PASTA

  1. Prepare 12 ounces spinach pasta according to package directions, in salted water. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, boil or steam 6 large carrots, peeled and cut evenly (into matchsticks would be ideal, but not necessary; slices would work, too). When they are just tender, remove from steam or drain. (Steaming is nutritionally a better option.)
  3. In a skillet, heat a couple tablespoons olive or peanut oil over medium-high heat. When just hot, add 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 pressed clove garlic, 1 teaspoon jarred or freshly grated ginger, and an optional jalapeno, minced. Cook for a few minutes, stirring.
  4. Add carrots and 1/2 cup chicken or veggie stock. Simmer for 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in 3/4 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup cilantro, minced. Remove from heat.
  6. Toss in pasta until all combined. Check for salt and pepper. Serve hot.
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3 thoughts on “Humble Beginnings

  1. Why peel carrots? Eat them without peeling and you get a little more nutrition. Phenolic compounds and all that. Plus, life is too short to bother peeling carrots.

    1. personally, i think unpeeled carrots don’t taste right or have appetizing mouth-feel, even when cooked… or maybe i should say especially when cooked. if you like carrots that way, then more power to you (literally, i suppose).

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