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Read: Recipes

Spicy Apple-Quince & Cranberry Chutney

Pallas Erdrich

Mette Nielsen

Mette Nielsen


Spice Bag:

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

3 dry bay leaves

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons cardamom seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

½ teaspoon whole cloves 


Makes about 5 half-pint jar

1 pound cranberries

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 cup diced red onion

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon ancho chile

2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 medium quince, peeled, cored and chopped

½ cup rice vinegar

½ cup evaporated cane sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a shallow saucepan heat the oil over low heat and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and ancho chile and cook until the vegetables soften and the mixture becomes very fragrant, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick and sticky. It is ready when you can drag a large spoon across the bottom and the  mixture stays separated, about 30 to 40 minutes. Discard or compost the spice bag. Spoon the mixture into clean jars, allow to cool before covering and storing in the refrigerator.

Cardamom Pear Jam

Pallas Erdrich

Keep those pears for later with sauce, butter and chutney

Makes about 4 half-pint (8 ounce) jars

2 pounds ripe pears, cored but not peeled and finely diced, about 6 cups

1 cup cane sugar

¼ cup water

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cardamom 

Put the pears, sugar, water, lemon juice and cardamom into a shallow sauté pan and set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, lower heat, and cook, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, about 25 minutes. 

Ladle the jam into clean, hot jars and add the lids, remembering to leave ½ inch headroom. Wipe the rims and screw on the bands so that they’re finger tight. Allow the jars to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. Tighten the bands before storing.

Herb-Roasted Garlic and Shallots

Pallas Erdrich

For extra flavor, roast the garlic and shallots

Mette Nielsen

Mette Nielsen

The mellower taste comes from a long, slow turn in the oven. 

Garlic and shallots are the backbone of a good sauce, soup, casserole and stew, adding substantial flavors that permeate the entire dish. And, given a chance, these ancient vegetables shine on their own when roasted with a little oil and a lot of herbs. That snappy flavor of fresh bulbs, whose bite is essential to salads and vinaigrettes, mellows and sweetens with low, slow heat as the garlic and shallots turn golden and silky.

When roasting them, it’s best to use the freshest bulb. Both the hard neck garlic (large, spicy cloves) and the soft neck (smaller, milder cloves) grow well in our region. Our local shallots are fat, juicy and mild, easy to handle and they make a fine match. When snugged together in the roasting pan, the more assertive garlic and sweet, mild shallot strike a nice balance. But you can choose to roast just one or the other.

This dish is terrific served as a side to roast beef, grilled pork chops or roast chicken. Or, purée the cloves and serve atop pizza or polenta; toss it with pasta, or stir it into rice.

The purée is also delicious whisked into cream cheese or chèvre to spread on bruschetta or sandwiches. Swirl it into sour cream, Greek yogurt, or hummus for a dip. Add a spoonful or two to boost soups, stews and sauces.

This recipe is easily doubled, keeps for a week and freezes beautifully. The roasty scents of these humble bulbs stir late fall hunger and promise good things soon to come.

Recipe: Herb-Roasted Garlic and Shallots

Serves 6 to 8.

Note: Straightforward and easy, this recipe yields magnificent results. You can choose to roast just the garlic or the shallots by themselves, but they are especially delicious when roasted together. The puréed garlic will keep several days, covered, in the refrigerator. From Beth Dooley.

• 5 to 6 heads garlic, cut in half horizontally

• 2 medium shallots, cloves, cut in half horizontally

• 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves

• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Arrange the garlic and shallots cut side up in baking pan or ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the thyme over the garlic and shallots, drizzle with the oil, and lightly season with the salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the cloves are very soft, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue roasting until the cloves are golden, another 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the cloves.

To serve, present the whole garlic halves and shallots in their skin on a serving plate. Or, squeeze the garlic and shallots from the heads into a food processor fitted with steel blade and purée.

Use on the side of meats, or purée and serve atop pizza, polenta or pasta, or stirred into rice. Also good whisked into cream cheese or chèvre and spread on bruschetta or sandwiches. A spoonful or two boosts soups, stews and sauces.

Slow-Cooked Broccolli

Pallas Erdrich

Roast your broccoli for rich flavor

Mette Nielsen

Mette Nielsen

A little effort and a couple of hours in the oven produce a dish with versatility. 

My grandmother cooked vegetables until there was no fight left in them, especially broccoli. She served it with plenty of melted butter and a squirt of lemon, and it melted right into the mashed potatoes.

So the notion of “tender crisp,” which works fine for carrots, kale, peas and asparagus, never seemed right for broccoli, with its much more aggressive flavor. Inspired by my grandmother’s approach, I’ve come up with another way to cook broccoli that also works well with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and other crucifers.

Most broccoli recipes advise blanching before adding the broccoli to a stir-fry or braise. But really, what’s the point? Broccoli contains enough water that it will steam naturally without additional liquid if sautéed in a little oil or butter to keep it from sticking and then covered for a few minutes before going into the oven. Using this oven method, broccoli can be cooked far past the tender-crisp stage to become meltingly silky in texture, with a deep, rich flavor. It is transformed into a completely different vegetable that works beautifully with sharp, hot, spicy or pungent accents. While the method requires long, slow cooking time, it asks nothing of the cook once it’s set in the oven.

The simple technique yields a dish with terrific versatility. It’s great tossed with pasta and a little Parmesan cheese, or served on polenta or grilled bread, or arranged on pizza. It makes a great side dish for grilled or roasted chicken, pork and lamb, a filling for lasagna, a bonus in soup.

Roasted broccoli does not freeze well, but will keep nicely for about a week in the refrigerator.

But in this kitchen, it’s never lasted that long.

Recipe : Slow-Cooked Broccoli

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: This technique also produces delicious results with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Feel free to try different flavors after it’s cooked. Try drizzling it with a little balsamic vinegar instead of lemon, or substitute Cheddar cheese for the Parmesan. From Beth Dooley.

• 2 bunches (about 2 to 2 1/4 lb.) broccoli

• 1/4 c. olive oil

• 3 garlic cloves, cut in half

• Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes

• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 2 tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese or more to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cut the florets off the broccoli. Peel the stems and cut them into thick slices, about 1/2-inch thick.

Put the olive oil and garlic into a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle add the broccoli and generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Season the broccoli with a little salt and pepper and stir well.

Cover the skillet and place in the oven to cook for about 2 hours, removing to stir once or twice, but trying not to break up the broccoli. It will be very tender when ready. Drizzle the broccoli with lemon juice and season to taste with more salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:

Calories 140 Fat 10 g Sodium 83 mg

Carbohydrates 11 g Saturated fat 2 g Calcium 102 mg

Protein 5 g Cholesterol 2 mg Dietary fiber 4 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 2 vegetable, 2 fat.

Originally Published by The Star Tribune

Looking for versatility at the dinner table? Reach for a potato!

Pallas Erdrich

There's a reason potatoes are a standby: They can be used in so many culinary ways. 

Tom Wallace

Tom Wallace

Gotta love potatoes, which are not only comforting, versatile and easy to cook, but also always in season. Well, not really. There is a difference between those just harvested and potatoes stored in the bin for months. Fresh potatoes from nearby farms reflect the quality of the soil in which they are grown, like potatoes from the Driftless Area along the Mississippi River that evoke the mineral essence of its limestone cliffs.

Potatoes are the world’s most popular vegetable and the fourth-biggest crop (after wheat, corn and rice). The world of potatoes is defined by the spud’s starch content. Low-starch, high-moisture or waxy potatoes (aka boiling potatoes) are great for gratins and potato salad. These can turn gummy when whipped for mashed potatoes. High-starch potatoes (aka bakers) puff up to be light and fluffy in the oven and when boiled make terrific, airy mashers. Medium-starch potatoes such as Yukon Gold and Yellow Finn and Red Bliss are great in just about any dish.

No matter what the variety, new potatoes, about 1½ inches in diameter, are best when cooked quickly and treated delicately. Once blanched, they are wonderful in stir fries, sautés and salads, and can take the place of pasta or rice in any dish. Their natural starches help thicken the sauce and enrich a soup or stew.

Potatoes are a natural in curry recipes. They’ll turn a lovely gold, thanks to the spices, provide a neutral balance to the curry’s heat, and make a vegetarian meal more substantial. The potatoes can be cooked ahead and then added just before the dish is served. Unlike more mature potatoes that can be stored in a cool, dark place for several months, new potatoes turn soft and rancid quickly. Enjoy them now before they grow up!

Mette Nielsen

Mette Nielsen

Indian Inspired Spinach and Potatoes

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish.

Note: You can add cooked chicken, pork or shrimp to make this meal heartier, but it’s very satisfying as a vegetarian dish

• 1 lb. new potatoes, scrubbed

• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter

• 2 garlic cloves, smashed

• 1 onion, thinly sliced

• 1 small green jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped

• 1/2 tsp. mild curry powder

• 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

• 2 tbsp. water, or more as needed

• 1 1/2 lb. fresh spinach, trimmed, washed and shredded

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Plain Greek yogurt for garnish, optional

• Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish, optional

Directions

Put the potatoes into a large, deep pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Set over high heat, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and cool. Slice the potatoes 1 inch thick and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat and add the garlic, onion and jalapeño, and cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, lime juice and water to make a thin sauce. Gently toss in the potatoes, then toss in the spinach. Cover the pan and continue cooking until the potatoes are warmed through and the spinach is just wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with the yogurt and cilantro, and serve.

Nutrition information per each of 4 servings:

Calories 156 Fat 4 g Sodium 106 mg

Carbohydrates 28 g Saturated fat 2 g Calcium 160 mg

Protein 6 g Cholesterol 8 mg Dietary fiber 6 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 1 ½ bread/starch, 1 fat.

Originally Published by The Star Tribune

Find your ginger and turmeric grown in Minnesota

Pallas Erdrich

Ginger and turmeric find a spot in local farms – and local kitchens. 

Think ginger and turmeric are tropical roots? They’re being grown right here in Minnesota. Unlike the gnarled, tough fibrous rhizomes shipped in from tropical regions, these are mild, fragrant and so much easier to use.

Fresh ginger is a beautiful, completely edible plant. Chop the leaves and shoots to simmer into a tea or to flavor a stock. Wrap the leaves around fish for poaching, stuff the shoots into a chicken’s cavity before roasting, chop and toss the leaves into salads and stir-fries.

Fresh turmeric, like ginger, does not need to be peeled. Simply chop and toss it into curries, soups, stews and teas. It’s especially delicious with carrots. Its flavor is mildly woodsy and earthy, just a tad bitter, so add it to a dish slowly, adjusting to taste.

Happily, for me, whose market basket often overflows with too much great stuff, both these roots are very easy to freeze. Simply rinse them thoroughly to remove the dirt. Gently break the ginger apart to clean the crevices and cut off the stems. Pack and store the clean roots in a zip-top bag in the freezer. To use the frozen roots, remove and grate or chop, then add to the recipe. Both ginger and turmeric are terrific baked into cookies, gingerbread, apple and cranberry pies and cakes.

Several local farms are having a great year for both fresh ginger and turmeric so we’ll find them at winter’s markets, as well as at food co-ops. These new foods are redefining what it means to eat local. As Alex Liebman of Stone’s Throw said, “Growing new crops keeps things challenging. Ginger is one of the crops that provide excitement and variety for growers and cooks.”

Mette Nielsen

Mette Nielsen

Aromatic Ginger-Turmeric Rice

Serves 3 to 4.

Note: Here’s a fragrant side dish for roast chicken or pork. Toss in cooked shrimp and you have a quick and easy meal. Local fresh ginger and turmeric are available at food co-ops and winter farmers markets. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 c. jasmine rice

• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

• 1/4 c. minced shallot

• 2 tbsp. peeled and chopped fresh ginger

• 1 tbsp. peeled and chopped fresh turmeric (or 1 1/4 tsp. dried turmeric)

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1 1/2 c. water

• 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice

• 1/4 c. dried cranberries

• 1/4 c. toasted sunflower seeds

• 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Directions

Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté the shallot, ginger and turmeric until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rice, salt and 1 1/2 cups water, increase the heat and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Allow the rice to stand for about 2 minutes before tossing in the lime juice, cranberries and sunflower seeds. Sprinkle on the parsley or cilantro right before serving.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 290 Fat 8 g

Sodium 600 mg Sat. fat 1 g

Carbs 50 g Calcium 31 mg

Protein 5 g Chol 0 mg

Dietary fiber 3 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 2 bread/starch, 1 ½ other carb, 1 ½ fat.

Originally Published by The Star Tribune

Quick raspberry jam makes use of the oven

Pallas Erdrich

An old English recipe uses the oven to prep berries for a delicious spread.

 

Now that our raspberry canes are drooping heavy with fruit, it’s time to savor the rest of these summery days. Preserving such delicate berries needn’t mean hours at the stove in August’s dogged heat. My grandmother made super-quick jam relying on an old English recipe that uses the oven to retain the fruit’s shape and bright flavor.

The key is to make this jam in small batches rather than huge amounts, so there’s little stirring and no boiling. Lacking time, just package the berries up and freeze them to save so that you can make jam when the winter winds blow.

This quick oven method is great for delicate raspberries, blackberries, thimbleberries and currants. Heating the sugar first warms the berries before they hit the blast of the oven, so they cook through in less time. We also skip the water bath method that cooks the berries further after the jam has been made and put into jars, thus dulling the taste.

Raspberries burst with a balance of intense sweetness and acidity, and contain just enough natural pectin to create a mixture that’s thick and spreadable without the need for additional stabilizers or thickeners.

This raspberry jam will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month, but it’s so good, we wouldn’t count on it lasting more than a couple of days. It’s delicious folded into whipped cream to pile on shortcakes, dolloped onto pound cake or spooned over vanilla ice cream. For more savory uses, fold in chopped basil and drop onto chèvre for appetizers, add a chopped chile pepper for a sweet-hot salsa or stir in chopped rosemary to garnish a plate of chicken salad.

Soon as it’s gone, make more, and savor the summer jar by jar.

Super Quick Oven Raspberry Jam

Makes 3 half-pints

Note: This will be the freshest jam you’ve ever encountered. Cooking the raspberries in the oven rather than on the stovetop helps them retain their shape and bright taste. This will keep at least a month, covered, in the refrigerator. From Beth Dooley.

• 2 c. sugar

• 1 pint (2 c., about 3/4 lb.) raspberries

Directions

Wash 3 half-pint jars and lids with soap and hot water, then run through the dishwasher or set in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes to sterilize. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the sugar into an 8- or 9-inch baking dish and warm in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and place in a bowl.

Put the raspberries into the baking dish and spoon the sugar over the berries, gently turning to mix in the sugar. Return the dish to the oven and bake until the berry mix is very hot but not boiling, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and stir gently, then ladle into the sterilized jars. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover the jars and refrigerate. Enjoy sooner, rather than later.

Nutrition information per 1 tablespoon:

Calories 35 Fat 0 g Sodium 0 mg

Carbohydrates 9 g Saturated fat 0 g Calcium 1 mg

Protein 0 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 0 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: ½ other carb.

Roast cherry tomatoes for intense flavor

Pallas Erdrich

5gard0511.1.jpg

We expect a lot of our garden tomatoes. Too much, I think. I grew up in New Jersey, home of the robust, red “Jersey Tom,” so I can say with some authority that Minnesota tomatoes are, well, OK. Given this year’s cooler temperatures, they aren’t getting the heat and humidity that tomatoes require to cultivate the fruit’s deeply rich flavor.

It’s the smaller, less ambitious cherry tomatoes that have earned my summer love. Reliable and productive, the cherry varieties have ripened beautifully this year, to be firm and snappy sweet-tart. They’re flourishing in pots right outside my kitchen door, which makes them easy to move to be assured of plenty of sun. Not so incidentally, when ripe, they are within easy reach.

The cherry tomato varieties I am growing are the Sun Gold, Gardeners Delight and Yellow Pear, along with those blackish-brown small tomatoes that are a mini-version of Russian Blacks. These all make quick snacks for dips and are perfect for tossing into salads, pastas and sautés. There’s no need to skin or seed these tomatoes. In fact, much of the flavor resides in the gel that surrounds the seeds. The skins, though firm, are not worth the time and mess it takes to remove them.

Tomato flavor intensifies with the heat of the oven. While cherry tomatoes are fabulous fresh, their flavors are even brighter when roasted, as all the sweet-sharpness comes to the fore. When I have a big batch, I roast them all at once to top pizza and burgers later.

The best advice I ever received regarding fresh tomatoes (and many other things, for that matter) was from Mrs. Delliapiazza, who grew Jersey Toms in her garden and stored them in a big basket on her wooden cutting board.

“Never, ever put a tomato in the refrigerator,” she said. “Or basil, for that matter. They’re like me. They hate the cold.”

Mette Nielsen

Mette Nielsen

Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad

Serves 4.

Note: This recipe is perfect for when you have too many cherry tomatoes. If you have a bumper crop, roast up a double amount and store in a glass jar, covered, in the refrigerator. Serve them on sandwiches, on top of grilled steak or chicken, and to top pizza. Cherry tomatoes roast beautifully; their skins wrinkle and shrink while the pulp collapses, releasing the tomato juices that mix with the oil for a fabulous dressing. From Beth Dooley.

• 3 c. mixed cherry tomatoes

• 1 shallot minced

• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• Coarse salt

• 1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-in. pieces, optional

• 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

• 1/4 c. sliced fresh basil

• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the tomatoes and shallot with the olive oil and sprinkle with 2 pinches of the coarse salt.

Spread the tomatoes on a baking sheet and roast until wrinkled and starting to char, about 40 minutes, shaking the pan periodically so the tomatoes cook evenly.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven and while they’re still hot, gently transfer to a bowl. Add the mozzarella, if using, and gently toss in the balsamic vinegar and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 256 Fat 21 g Sodium 240 mg Saturated fat 9 g

Carbohydrates 8 g Calcium 223 mg

Protein 13 g Cholesterol 40 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 1½ high-fat meat, 2 fat.

originally published by The Star Tribune

Hot and Tangy Corn Relish

Pallas Erdrich

Mette Neilsen

Mette Neilsen

Those kernels are good in so many different dishes. 

It’s always hard to believe that there comes a time in the year when I think, “I’ve just had too much corn.”

Roasted on the grill with a splash of lime or blanched and slathered with butter, we’ve been eating it night after night as the main dish with a side of thickly sliced tomatoes and grilled bruschetta. But now I’m ready for some variety — succotash, corn salads, pasta, corn pudding.

Our farmers are growing a range of organic varieties, such as Ruby Jewel, Sugar Pearl, Brocade, Painted Mountain. This year a new variety corn, dubbed “Who Gets Kissed,” hit the market, developed by Martin Diffley, who with his wife, Atina, introduced us to wonderful heirloom corn when they farmed Gardens of Eagan.

Don’t limit your enjoyment of corn to the kernels. The cobs make wonderful stock and syrup. Simply put the cobs into a large pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add a few herbs and you have a fine broth to use in soups and sautés. Or, stir in a little brown sugar or honey and continue cooking until it thickens into syrup. This is wonderful on blueberry corn pancakes and cornbread, or drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

One of the best ways to preserve a bounty of corn for the colder months is to make corn relish. It’s quick and easy, delicious served right away or keeps several weeks in the refrigerator; it also freezes nicely. As with any corn recipe, the key is to not to overcook it. Enjoy now and save some for later.

Hot and Tangy Corn Relish

Makes about 6 to 7 cups.

Note: Sparked with lime and chile, this relish is great on burgers, chicken, fish and black beans. Serve it with chips or on top of bruschetta. It will keep about two weeks, covered in the refrigerator. To remove the kernels from the cob, stand each ear in a large bowl and, using a sharp-bladed knife, scrape the kernels from the cob into the bowl. From Beth Dooley.

• 6 to 8 ears of corn

• 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced

• 1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and diced

• 1 tbsp. coriander seeds

• 2 tsp. mustard seeds

• 1 tsp. whole peppercorns

• Juice of 4 limes (about 1/3 c.)

• 2 tsp. chipotle chile flakes, or more to taste

• 2 tsp. salt, or to taste

• 1/4 c. sugar

Directions

Shuck the corn and cut the kernels from the cob (should have about 6 cups of kernels). Put the corn kernels, jalapeño and bell peppers, coriander, mustard seeds, whole peppercorns, lime juice, chile flakes, salt and sugar into a large pot, and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, then reduce the heat and simmer until the corn is tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove and ladle into clean jars. Allow to cool before serving. Cover the jars and store in the refrigerator.

Nutrition info per 2 tablespoons:

Calories 18 Fat 0 g Sodium 85 mg Carbs 4 g Saturated fat 0 g Calcium 2 mg

Protein 1 g Chol 0 mg Dietary fiber 0 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable.

Recipe originally published by The Star Tribune

Carrot Salad With Coriander, Cumin and Cilantro

Pallas Erdrich

Mette Nielsn

Mette Nielsn

Some 30 years ago, at the farmers market, the taste of a single carrot brought back memories of the fresh summer mornings I trailed my grandmother. She would thump melons, sniff peaches and swap recipes clipped from the newspaper with the farm women near her home on the New Jersey shore. As I exchanged money with a farmer, whose fingers resembled his thick, gnarled carrots, he assured me the lacy-topped roots he’d dug that morning had been raised without chemicals. In that first sweet crunch, I realized the relationship between how and where vegetables are grown and their flavor.

Our local carrots are perfect just as they are — sliced and served with a dip, sprinkled with lime, cumin and coarse salt, or tossed in a salad. In winter, carrots are the backbone vegetable on which to build layers of flavor in a stock or stew. The heirloom varieties — white, yellow, purple, violet, burgundy and plum — offer a range of nuanced flavors — earthy, citrusy, sugary.

I’ve seen older recipes for a pudding of carrots and honey. Historians write that the vegetable was first domesticated in Afghanistan. Its flavors are a good match with Indian and Middle Eastern herbs and spices — cumin, red chilies, turmeric, ginger, curry, cardamom, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, cloves, coriander, fennel, black pepper, mint, basil, cilantro, as well as citrus.

Some food writers suggest including the leaves in dishes, but I find them bitter and distracting. In fact, it’s best to remove the tops and store carrots, unwashed, in a paper bag in the crisper of the refrigerator. Scrubbed carrots kept in plastic tend to turn slimy. If possible, buy them in bulk.

As a bonus, our growers are cultivating “storage” carrots that taste even sweeter several months after harvest. When stored carefully they will sweeten over time, with those flavors to be released in January and February. Enjoy local carrots now and look for the other varieties later in the year.

Carrot Salad With Coriander, Cumin and Cilantro

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: Use a variety of colorful rainbow carrots in this light, refreshing salad. You can make it a day ahead and bring it to a picnic. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 garlic clove

• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

• 1/2 tsp. ground coriander

• Pinch crushed red pepper

• 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 lb. carrots, cut into thin matchsticks

• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Smash the garlic with the flat of a knife. Transfer it to a small bowl, then add the cumin, coriander, crushed red pepper and lemon juice. Whisk in the olive oil.

Put the carrots into a large bowl and toss with the dressing along with the cilantro and mint, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:

Calories 114

Fat 9 g

Sodium 53 mg

Carbohydrates 8 g

Saturated fat 1 g

Calcium 30 mg

Protein 1 g

Cholesterol 0 mg

Dietary fiber 2 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 2 fat.

Recipe originally published by The Star Tribune