Carrots

Any way you slice 'em, these classic veggies are guaranteed to please.
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Ever wonder why kids go crazy for carrots when they won’t go near broccoli? It’s probably because these vivid roots contain more sugar than any other vegetable (well, except for beets, and even sugar won’t get most kids to eat beets). Luckily for moms—and the rest of us—carrots are also chock-full of vitamins and minerals, including the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene, which gets its name from carrots. Plus, carrots are an excellent source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

These days, there’s a carrot product to meet every busy cook’s need, from pregrated and presliced to those “babies” that aren’t young carrots at all. Packaged baby carrots are actually mature vegetables that were too misshapen to sell whole. Instead they’re cut and pared into small, smooth oblongs. Bagged large carrots are the best bargain in the produce bin, though purists may prefer those that still have their fluffy green tops. Just be sure to trim off the greens once you get home—when stored, they drain moisture from the carrots, which makes them lose their snap. And if you happen upon heirloom carrots at a specialty store or farmers’ market—round Tonda di Parigi, Cosmic Purple, Amarillo Yellow or Lunar White—grab a bunch to add extra color and flavor to recipes.

Purple or petite, grated or sliced, carrots are one of the most versatile ingredients you can keep in the fridge. In these recipes, we toss them with feta and pistachios to make an exotic carrot salad, and braise them with hard cider for a succulent side dish. Simmered with tomatoes and herbs, carrots fill out a tofu cacciatore. They’re a dream stirred into polenta. And even the pickiest eaters will be tempted by a slice of our Ultimate Carrot Cake. This one includes an ingenious ingredient—carrot baby food—that adds flavor without adding fat. Sweet!

Tofu-Carrot Cacciatore
Serves 6 l Vegan

Tomatoes and carrots grow better when planted side-by-side in the garden—and they taste great together too.

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 medium-size onions, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 large green pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch strips
3 large cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 8-oz. bags baby carrots, halved diagonally
1 8-oz. pkg. Italian-flavored baked tofu, cut into cubes
1 Tbs. rubbed dried sage
1 bay leaf
12 oz. linguine or other pasta

1. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and pepper, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened, stirring often. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more, or until fragrant.

2. Stir in tomatoes, carrots, tofu, sage and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 1 hour, or until carrots are tender. Remove bay leaf.

3. After cacciatore has simmered about 45 minutes, cook pasta according to package directions. Serve cacciatore over pasta.

PER SERVING: 211 CAL; 12G PROT; 8.5G TOTAL FAT (1G SAT. FAT); 21G CARB; 0MG CHOL; 512MG SOD; 5G FIBER; 11G SUGARS

Cider-Glazed Carrots
Serves 6 l Vegan

Cooking carrots in hard cider infuses them with a crisp apple note. Look for hard cider where beer is sold, and use the driest one you can find.

2 lb. carrots, peeled and cut on diagonal into 1/4-inch slices
2 cups hard cider
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. Place carrots in large skillet. Cover with cider, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook 15 minutes. Remove lid, increase heat to medium-high and cook 15 minutes more, or until carrots are tender and most of cider has evaporated.

2. Add oil to pan and cook over medium-high heat 7 to 10 minutes more, or until carrots are golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

PER SERVING: 108 CAL; 1G PROT; 5G TOTAL FAT (0.5G SAT. FAT); 13G CARB; 0MG CHOL; 94MG SOD; 4G FIBER; 6G SUGARS

Peas and Carrots Polenta Galette
Serves 8

A hearty polenta cake makes a great springtime meal—and a fun twist on the classic peas-and-carrots combo. Serve this warm or at room temperature.

2 medium-size carrots, peeled
2 bunches green onions (about 16)
1 cup instant polenta
2 cups purchased pregrated carrots (or 4 medium-size carrots, grated)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.)
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Shave 2 carrots into thin strips using vegetable peeler. Trim green tops from 8 green onions (reserve white parts). Coat 9-inch round pan with nonstick cooking spray. Alternate carrot strips and onion greens side-by-side in single layer, forming striped pattern, in bottom of pan. Set aside.

2. Slice remaining green onions and reserved white parts. Bring 2 cups salted water to a boil in large pan. Add polenta, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, or until thick. Remove from heat, and stir in sliced onions, grated carrots, peas, Parmesan, oil, garlic and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Spread polenta mixture over carrots and onions in pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until just brown and crisp around edges. Cool 10 minutes.

4. To unmold, run small knife around edges of galette and invert onto platter (if any onion or carrot strips stick to pan, remove and rearrange on top of galette). Slice into wedges, and serve.

PER SERVING: 153 CAL; 5G PROT; 4.5G TOTAL FAT (1G SAT. FAT); 24G CARB; 2MG CHOL; 251MG SOD; 4G FIBER; 4G SUGARS

Feta, Pistachio and Carrot Salad
Serves 6 l 30 minutes or fewer

Sweet meets salty in this salad. It’s even better when made a day ahead.

4 cups pregrated carrots (or about 8 medium-size carrots, grated)
3/4 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup chopped green onions (about 4 onions)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Toss together carrots, figs and green onions in bowl. Whisk olive oil and lemon juice in separate bowl; stir in mint. Pour over carrot mixture; season with salt and pepper. Stir in pistachios and feta. Cover, and chill until served.

PER SERVING: 185 CAL; 4G PROT; 8.5G TOTAL FAT (2G SAT. FAT); 26G CARB; 5MG CHOL; 128MG SOD; 6G FIBER; 16G SUGARS

The Ultimate VT Carrot Cake
Serves 16

A surprise ingredient—puréed baby food—gives this supermoist cake amazing flavor.
Recipe by Fiona Kennedy.

Carrot Cake
2 cups plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
4 oz. carrot baby food
1 Tbs. finely grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3 cups coarsely grated carrots (can be shredded in food processor), from about 6 carrots
1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple, well drained
1 1/2 cups crushed walnuts

Creamy Brown Sugar Frosting
1 1/4 cup whipping cream
8 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup crushed walnuts, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter 2 8-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Butter paper, and dust with flour.

2. To make Carrot Cake: Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. Beat oil, both sugars, baby food, ginger and vanilla extract until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Add flour mixture in two additions. Add carrots, pineapple and nuts; beat just until blended. Divide batter between cake pans and bake 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on rack 10 minutes. Cut around edges to loosen using small knife. Invert cakes onto rack, remove paper and cool completely.

3. To make Frosting: Beat cream until soft peaks form; set aside. Combine cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and salt; beat until smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream in 3 additions. Refrigerate.

4. To assemble: Up to 4 hours before serving, place one layer on cake platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over top and cover with second layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle sides with crushed walnuts, if using.

PER SERVING: 560 CAL; 7G PROT; 34.5G TOTAL FAT (10.5G SAT. FAT); 60G CARB; 94MG CHOL; 462MG SOD; 2G FIBER; 44G SUGARS