Monday, October 10, 2016

Blackened Carrots with Other Stuff

I've posted about blackened or charred carrots here before. And because I like them so much, I'll do it again.

We first encountered the concept of charring carrots over direct flame at Bobby Flay's NY restaurant, Gato. There he serves the black beauties with Middle Eastern flavors like harissa + mint + yogurt. Almost any flavor profile can work with charred carrots - they are simply sweet with a nice caramelization. (No, they don't taste burnt.) While I've done the harissa thing myself, I thought I'd take the flavors up further into the Mediterranean by adding a pesto. We had a bunch of arugula hanging around, so that became the sauce's base. We were also on a weird self-imposed no-dairy, no-wheat, no-sugar diet for the month of August. While yogurt seems completely natural for this dish (at least to us and Bobby Flay), it was a no-no for us. A nice creamy alternative that was allowable is an aioli made with white beans. And garlic, of course (because it's not aioli without garlic). But not just any garlic - black garlic. Black garlic is fermented, which creates the black color and brings out the bulb's inherent sweetness. It's less pungent than fresh or cured garlic (most supermarket garlic and onions have been cured or dried for longterm storage) but is extremely flavorful. The only drawback is that black garlic's soft texture makes it a bit hard to peel and chop. But we're using a food pro here, so no worries.

There are a lot of steps to this recipe, but none are difficult. The aioli and pesto can be made in minutes in the same food processor (rinse it out between sauces). Prepare them while the granola is in the oven. While everything is chilling, make the carrots.

There will be lots of leftover granola, which can be used as a topping for any savory vegetable preparation, or sprinkled on plain yogurt for breakfast. Toss leftover pesto with pasta on another night, and use the aioli as a sandwich spread or dip. It's all good.

The finished dish is vegetarian; it's completely vegan if you leave the Parm out of the pesto and skip the granola. And it tastes amazing.

Blackened Carrots
If you don't have a gas oven, you can blacken your carrots on a grill.

1 bunch slender young carrots with tops, scrubbed but not peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut off the tops of the carrots and discard (or save some for the pesto!). Place the carrots directly on your stove's gas burner, as if you were roasting bell peppers. Cook until charred on all sides, turning frequently. As each carrot becomes charred enough, place it on a foil-lined baking sheet. Once all the carrots are on the foil, drizzle them with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until tender.

White Bean Black Garlic Aioli

1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
3-4 cloves black garlic
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the beans, lemon juice, and salt, and black garlic in a food processor with the olive oil. Whiz to a puree. If it seems too thick, add more oil. Season with the pepper, adding additional salt and lemon juice to allow for personal tastes. Store in the fridge and eat within a week.

Arugula Pesto

Pesto isn't rocket science. If you don't have 2 cups of arugula, use whatever you have and add smaller quantities of everything else. If you have lots of mixed soft herbs like parsley, cilantro, mint, use them too. As long as it has cheese, nuts, garlic, and olive oil, it will taste good. Oh - allergic to nuts? Leave them out!

2 cups arugula leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
¼ cup toasted nuts (I used cashews)
1 clove garlic, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice
Kosher salt

Put arugula, cheese, nuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Drizzle in the EVOO and process to a paste of whatever consistency you prefer. Like thinner pesto? add more oil. Like it thick, add less. Season to taste with lemon juice and salt. Store in a tightly covered container in the fridge and eat within a week.

Savory Granola (adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup walnuts
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
¼ cup raw black and white sesame seeds
3 tablespoons hemp seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon caraway or dill seeds
1/2 teaspoon nigella/charnushka seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg white, beaten to blend
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon agave syrup

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, seeds, salt, and cayenne pepper with egg white, oil, and agave syrup until everything is coated. Transfer mixture to a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring once, until golden, 25–30 minutes. Let cool. Store in a zip top plastic bag.

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