Monday, July 07, 2014

Blackened Carrots with Harissa Yogurt and Carrot top-Mint Pesto

I have developed a passion for carrots. Cooked carrots. I especially enjoy young carrots, so fresh they still have the greens attached. So when I saw a charred carrot dish on the menu at Bobby Flay's new restaurant, Gato, I had to have them. And they were wonderful.

There are recipes for "charred" carrots on the interwebs, but they are more caramelized than charred. Flay's carrots were literally black with char, as if they had been dropped directly into a fire and forgotten for a few minutes. I figured I could do the same thing at home, blackening the carrots over an open gas flame much as I do when I roast peppers. It took a few minutes to get the carrots black all over, and they had to be moved around regularly, but it worked beautifully. Although charred, the carrots were still mostly raw at this point, so I popped them in the oven after oiling and seasoning them.

Flay's carrots were served with a spicy yogurt flavored with harissa, a Tunisian spice mix heavy on chiles that can be found in both paste and dry form. The one I use is Frontier brand and not too spicy, so use your own tastebuds when seasoning your yogurt. I hated to waste those glorious carrot tops, which are a bit too metallic in flavor to eat like other greens. At first I was thinking a carrot top vinaigrette, because I had eaten one on a salad locally, but then I remembered that I really didn't care for that particular dish at all and opted to make a pesto, instead. And rather than remake Flay's crispy parsnip chips, some recently purchased fried shallots became the topping. The combination was stellar, if I do say so myself. (And I do!)

I think blackened carrots will become a part of the summertime vegetable rotation. Next time, with feta cheese and dill....or preserved lemon yogurt.

Blackened Carrots with Harissa Yogurt and Carrot top-Mint Pesto

For the carrots:
1 pound small to medium carrots with tops, scrubbed but not peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the pesto:
About 1 cup loosely packed carrot tops, washed thoroughly and dried
Handful fresh mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Handful of fresh grated Parmesan
Few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

For the yogurt:
1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt to taste

To make carrots: Turn on a couple of the gas burners on your stove and place the carrots directly on the flame. Use tongs to turn and move them around occasionally to make sure the entire carrot gets mostly blackened. Once carrots are nicely charred (about 10 minutes), remove them to a plate and set aside.

To make pesto: Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until combined but still slightly chunky. Set aside.

To make yogurt: Stir either harissa paste or harissa powder into yogurt to taste. Season with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To finish dish: Preheat oven to 400°F. Place charred carrots on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, turning once or twice during baking, until the carrots are tender.

Serve with harissa yogurt and carrot top-mint pesto.

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