I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but recently I found myself with a fridge full of carrots. Not that this wasn’t a good thing, it was just unexpected. I happen to love carrots. In fact it’s a only very short time ago that I was praising carrots here on the blog. But, now that I’m no longer young and broke, I tend to think that carrots don’t make a meal in themselves. At least not a very exciting one. No, they make for excellent side dishes and they can constitute a filling element in stir-fries, stews, soups, and salads, but they are rarely the star of the show.
With so many carrots in my fridge, however, and not very many other exciting things, I needed to elevate some of the carrots to stardom. I racked my brain quite a bit to come up with something. In the end, I decided on two things; one preparation would suit the CSA box carrots (which are organic and fresh and delicious), and the other preparation would work for some store-bought carrots (which were also organic, but not as fresh, and not as delicious). And of course, in the midst of cleaning the carrots, I realized the the CSA ones still had fresh, green tops, and that I should probably use those, too, since I was at it anyway.
And so it came that we had superstar carrots for dinner. The CSA carrots ended up roasted and glazed with a whole-grain mustard glaze. I followed this recipe (with a few adjustments as usual). The carrot tops were blitzed into a happy, bright green pesto with thyme and lemon, and some roasted chicken also made it onto the plate. But my absolute favorite, must-make-again-soon component of the dinner was a spicy carrot paste (recipe below). It had garlic, paprika, chili and olives to offset the sweetness of the carrots, and I wish I had made so much more of it than I did, because we ate it all in one go. This recipe is great for winter type carrots, or other carrots that have lost their floral aroma, because the main contribution of the carrots in this recipe is their sweetness and their texture, and that usually remains. The end result is a thick paste or puree that’s spicy and a little bit briny and has a lingering undertone of carroty sweet goodness.
Now, I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m confident you can use this paste in sandwiches, and on pasta, or as an accompaniment to meat, among other things. So, no excuses, go grab your carrots and get cooking! I know I will.
Spicy Carrot Paste
- 3 medium carrots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp olive oil (1 for cooking, 2 for blending)
- 1 1/2 dl chicken stock
- 1 pinch cayenne
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3-4 black olives
- salt to taste
Cut the carrots in chunks and put them in a sautee pan with the garlic and 1 tbsp of oil. Saute 3-5 minutes at medium heat.
Add the chicken stock and let simmer until the carrots are very tender, around 8-10 minutes.
Add the spices, except for salt, and let cook for another 1-2 minutes or until most or all of the stock has disappeared.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a food processor and blend while you drizzle in the last 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Only blend until the ingredients start to come together - you don't want the mixture to be totally smooth.
Add the olives and pulse a few times. Taste to see if the flavor and texture is right.
Adjust seasoning if necessary. If your paste is too thick, add a bit of water. If desired, add a bit of salt and then pulse a few more times.
Serve warm, or transfer to an airtight container for storage in the fridge for up to a few days.
I add the olives after the first round of blending, because I like to have little chunks of olive in the mix. If you prefer a smooth paste, just add the olives right when you transfer the carrots to the food processor.