It Only Looks Fancy

Tell me I’m not the only one who went into Marshall’s last month in search of Father’s Day gifts and walked out with a 2 lb. bag of sunflower seeds. No? Only me? Oh well. I had a purpose in mind for the sunflower seeds – a Thai-inspired sauce – but I’m so taken with this recipe for Baby Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto that I haven’t managed to find time to work on that other recipe.

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The carrot recipe comes from Saladish: A Crunchier, Grainier, Herbier, Tastier Way with Vegetables by Ilene Rosen with Donna Gelb, and I can’t stop/won’t stop cooking from it. All the recipes can be made beforehand, put in the fridge, then taken out, and are all still fantastic. My own take on this cookbook is that it’s a lot like Ottolenghi’s vegetable platters but not as ridiculous in their finishing details.

 

20180708_164536.jpgI made these carrots again tonight with my CSA carrots. I’ve also enjoyed the Rice Noodles with Lots of Asian Herbs and Lime Dressing, Roasted and Pickled Cauliflower, and tossed the Basil Dressing with a farro salad with summer squash and fresh corn. There are a ton more things I’m looking forward to making before this book has to go back to the library. Honestly, it’s looking more and more likely that I will actually buy this book, it’s that good.

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Although this looks like a fancy dish, it takes less than a half hour to put together, and most of that time is carrots roasting. While the oven preheats, I cut off the greens tops and plop them in a huge bowl of cold water to give them a clean. I scrub the carrots in cold water with a vegetable brush instead of peeling them. Although her recipe calls for 2 bunches of carrots, I used one with no negative results.

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Ilene suggests using the carrot top pesto as “a spread for crostini with anchovies, pickled carrots and sliced radishes; as a dressing for a wedge salad of iceberg or romaine hearts with crumbled blue cheese, spiralized or grated carrots, or as a garnish swirled into warm or chilled carrot soup.” Or you can put them on top of the roasted carrots themselves, with the aforementioned sunflower seeds, which you can get at Marshall’s while picking up presents for your next birthday/Father’s Day/Mother’s Day, etc.

Baby Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto from Saladish by Ilene Rosen

Ingredients

1 bunch baby carrots, scrubbed, tops attached

2 to 3 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Carrot Top Pesto

About 2 cups loosely packed green carrot tops (stems discarded), from carrots above

¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted (I didn’t toast mine)

1 small garlic clove

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoon honey

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fruity olive oil for thinning the pesto

3 tablespoons queso fresco, crumbled

2 tablespoons canned or jarred pickled jalapenos, minced (I did not have any on hand)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400F

Trim the carrots, leaving ½ inch of the green tops attached. Reserve about 2 cups of the remaining frilly tops for the pesto, plus several of the nicest-looking tops for garnish. Cut any fatter carrots lengthwise in half so they are all about the same thickness and place them on a sheet pan. Toss with enough oil to coat, spread them out in the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Roast the carrots for 18 to 25 minutes (depending on the size), turning occasionally, until nicely browned and tender.

Meanwhile, make the pesto: Put the carrot tops, 3 tablespoons of the sunflower seeds, and the garlic in the bowl of food processor or in a blender and grind to a paste. Add the mustard, vinegar, and honey and blend throroughly. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil and process until the pesto is thick but still retains some texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (You’ll have some pesto left over; store it tightly covered in the refrigerator, and use it within the next day or two, while the color is still bright.)

Arrange the carrots on a serving dish. Thin the pesto with olive oil until it can be drizzled. Spoon some pesto lightly over the carrots, and transfer the remaining pesto to a small serving bowl. Top the carrots with the cheese, followed by the jalapenos (if using), and finally the remaining 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds. Serve the remaining pesto on the side.

 

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Picnicking from Here

We celebrated our anniversary this year with a very hot night at Tanglewood, for the season finale of Live From Here with Chris Thile. To be honest, Garrison Keillor always made me feel a little uncomfortable, so I was happy when Chris became the host. He’s made it a much more music-centric show. Lake Street Dive, The Punch Brothers and Emanuel Ax were all guests our night. We were only scolded once by management because of the girls’ behavior. I actually am getting over a muscle strain so I couldn’t chase the girls around with Rich. He’s been exhausted since, although running and riding his bike in this heat probably doesn’t help.

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We had a wonderful picnic and ended up sitting with my Cousin Roz, who was there with a friend. We didn’t manage to find my cousin on the other side, Brian, who was also there that night. (Half my readership is my family who will delight in knowing the family was together in the Berkshires.)

But yes, the picnic! Oh my, it was a wonderful one. I had a lot to work with from our CSA, and lots of recipes I wanted to try out. In addition to this week’s recipe, I used the zucchini in a frittata, along with caramelized red onion and feta. Lilli made a caprese salad all by herself. There were also sundry items, including chips and guac, garlic and lemon green olives (found at the Co-op for half the price as Whole Foods), some stinky cheese, crackers, and yogurt and honey for the girls. Rich brought a Rye Saison by Bear and Bramble, brewed by one of our neighbors here in Florence.

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I had a hard time choosing what recipe to post because there have been so many good ones lately, and I have a few more lined up, but I am going with this fennel and white bean salad. Fennel is happening right now and the summer squashes will be around all summer.

We enjoyed this salad last summer as well, and I had meant to share it then, but there was kimchito tend to, and ice cream to eat. The idea of the salad comes from Julia Turshen and her wonderful cookbook, Small Victories, which earned a spot on the top shelf. I say “idea” because it’s a “Spin-Off” suggestion on from a recipe for a Chopped Chickpea Salad: “MIX WHITE BEANS WITH FENNEL, chopped fresh parsley, a little chopped fresh oregano, and shards of Parmesan. Dress with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.” That’s it.

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I forgot the fresh herbs in mine, and added red onion, which I soak in lemon juice as I get everything else prepared. Yes, the fennel would benefit being sliced paper thin on a mandolin, but I just used the same very sharp chef’s knife I used to cut my onion and lemon. My fennel were medium-sized ones. I see enormous ones in the regular grocery store, and I’ve had teensy ones from the farm share. These were the right size for Goldilocks. I clean mine by peeling off the icky, wrinkly first layer and giving the rest a wash.

I didn’t end up using my entire can of Northern White Beans for this recipe – about ⅓ of a cup of them are sitting in my fridge right now, waiting on their destiny.

This is a great salad to pack, be it on a picnic or for a work or school lunch.

Fennel and White Bean Salad

Ingredients

⅓ red onion, sliced thin

1 half fresh lemon

3 Fennel bulbs, cleaned and shaved on a mandolin or thinly cut with a sharp knife

⅔ can of Great Northern Beans, rinsed and dried

Hunk of Parmesan

Kosher salt

Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh parsley

Directions

Thinly slice the red onion and place it in a bowl. Juice some of the lemon half, but not all of it. This will take the bite out of the onion. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on top of the onion and lemon juice.

Thinly slice the fennel. Add that to the onions.

Rinse and drain the beans. Add to fennel and onions.

Stir everything in the bowl. Squeeze the rest of the lemon into the bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil, up to two tablespoons, into the mixture. Add another pinch of salt. Shave about a tablespoon of fresh Parmesan into the bowl. (Or skip it, and keep if vegan.) Add parsley, if using.

If you’re going on a picnic or packing this up, let the salad sit in its own juices for at least 10 minutes for everything to settle. Then pack up.