I have to admit, I haven’t always held carrots in the highest regard. They’re useful in starting off soup and an inoffensive addition to a crudité platter, sure, but the only stand-alone dish I could recall was the mushy coins glazed with brown sugar I ate as a kid. (Which still doesn’t say much for carrots, since I’m pretty sure kids will eat anything glazed in brown sugar.) Though when the first spring carrots popped up at my market (they’re a year-round cultivar in California, but best in the early spring and fall) with Capay Valley dirt still clinging to them and great tufts of green leafy tops still attached, positively cartoonish in their carrot-ness, I couldn’t resist bringing home two big bunches.
Figuring that every other root vegetable tastes great roasted, I tossed the carrots with olive oil and salt and pepper and threw them in a hot oven, where they softened to a yielding crisp-tender texture and took on a bit of color in the heat. Eureka! Leave some of the edible tops attached (I think they look pretty and extra carrot-y that way) and if you aren’t having the Queen to dinner, those tops are awfully useful as a handle for eating. We had these carrots as part of multi-dish vegetarian spread, but I bet they’d hit a perfect sweet-savory note alongside roasted pork tenderloin or salmon. I just used the herbs I happened to have on hand to dress them up a bit; parsley has a special affinity for carrots, but you can substitute as you see fit.
serves 2-3 as a side dish
- one lb small-medium carrots (with leafy greens still attached; see note)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- few grindings of black pepper
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- one tsp each fresh tarragon, thyme and flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the greens (and any spindly tap roots) from the carrots and peel. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the first five ingredients together. Cover well with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes (this will let them steam a bit). Uncover, toss and cook for 10 minutes. Toss again and bake, about five minutes more, until the carrots are crisp-tender. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs and another light sprinkling of salt and pepper (if desired) and serve.
Note: the carrots I used were about 3/4″ thick, so adjust the roasting time up or down depending on your carrots’ size. Don’t be tempted to substitute the milled “baby” carrots sold in plastic bags; for one thing, they’re much less flavorful and nutritious, but they’re also pumped with water during processing (they end up heavier and more expensive that way) and will only steam in the oven.