Welcome to Chow with Me, where sister site Chowhound's Executive Editor Hana Asbrink shares all of the irresistible things she's cooking, eating, reading, buying and more. Today: A delicious roasted carrot dish that's sure to be a star on your holiday table.
What's your favorite Thanksgiving food? I'd bet it's not a vegetable. For me, it's stuffing (well technically, dressing) all the way. I love a traditional cornbread-country bread stuffing studded with pork sausage and all the sage. It has always been the Thanksgiving food I most look forward to, but a new side (a vegetarian side, at that!) might just usurp stuffing's place at the holiday table.
Not long ago, I tried the baby carrots at Il Fiorista (Italian for "The Florist"), a new restaurant in New York's Flatiron area that celebrates flowers and botany both in the food and in the decor (under Mindy Cardozo's artful and thoughtful floral direction) through a seasonal, vegetable-heavy lens. The standout for me was the roasted carrots, which are served with a carrot-top pipian (a beautiful green pumpkin seed sauce often found in Central American cuisine), pistachio and coriander.
According to executive chef Garrison Price, the carrot dish was inspired by some of a particularly splendid bunch of flowering cilantro. "Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables," chef Garrison tells me. "The pipian is inspired by a trip to the Yucatan when I was working with Chef José Andrés. It's a traditional sauce for many dishes in Mexican cuisine. We use pumpkin seeds as part of the base, combined with pistachios, and we use the carrot tops in an effort to reduce our food waste."
Truth be told, I am not the biggest fan of carrot tops, even when they're transformed into a pesto. They are usually far too bitter for me, but the key to avoiding such bitterness in this dish is choosing smaller, younger carrots. "We find that when using baby carrots, the tops have less bitterness," explains Chef Garrison. "However, we don't mind the slight bitterness they bring to the table. We find the bitterness balances with the sweetness from the roasted carrots."
It's this nice balance of sweet, nutty, herbal and a bit spicy (thanks to a hit of serrano chili in the pipian) that transforms the humble carrot and its accompanying ingredients into a glorious vegetarian side and standout vegetable dish (that's not an expected roasted Brussels sprout) that you might just want to fold into your holiday spread from this Thanksgiving onward. We have the recipe for you below, but don't be intimidated by the restaurant-level plating (though if you want carrot ribbons, go forth with my favorite vegetable peeler!); it's easily adaptable for the home cook.
Il Fiorista's Baby Carrots with Carrot-Top Pipian, Pistachio, and Coriander
3 pounds small carrots with the tops
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon serrano chili, chopped
2 tablespoons pistachios
2 tablespoons pumpkins seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 cups carrot tops (reserved from above)
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh coriander flowers and berries, for an optional garnish
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Trim the carrot tops leaving 1/2 inch of the stem attached. Separate carrot tops and reserve for the pipian.
Toss the carrots with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Place on baking sheet and roast in the oven until just tender and brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the carrots to rest at room temperature.
In a food processor combine garlic, serrano chile, pistachio, pumpkin and coriander seeds until a coarse paste forms. Add the carrot tops, cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Pulse together while adding in the olive oil.
Serve the carrots on a bed of the pipian sauce and garnish with fresh coriander flowers and green coriander berries.