During the winter months, the grower I get my weekly basket of vegetables from often includes bunches of small new carrots, not much larger than my middle finger, with the bright green tops still on.
Pretty, but a bit of a puzzle to me: the skin on those young carrots is so thin it doesn’t seem necessary to peel them, but they do have tiny fibrils shooting from all around their sides, and those I did not know how to handle. While I could scrape those off with the side of my blade, it felt finicky, and a disproportionate effort when compared to the amount of edible carrot I ended up with.
A lot of the carrot’s taste resides in its skin, so finding a way to keep it guarantees bold flavors.
Then, one day, I finally thought to ask Didier — that’s the name of the farmer — how he cleaned them. His response was quite liberating: “I just wash them, leaving a short section of the stem.” No scrubbing, no scraping, no peeling — it was simply a matter of removing any dirt or grit, without worrying about the fibrils that so disconcerted me.
It was all the permission I needed, and the dish I made the first time I prepped the carrots this way was so good it has practically become a weekly staple. A lot of the carrot’s taste resides in its skin, so finding a way to keep it guarantees a bold flavor.
For this dish, the carrots are sliced lengthwise, the better to show off their shape, and simply sautéed in a bit of fat — olive oil is good, but so much the better if you have chicken, duck, or pork fat lying around from a previous roast — with a touch of cumin and chili pepper, and the white parts of a bunch of spring onions.
When the carrots are nice and tender — I don’t think al dente does the carrot any favors — you add in some (organic) ground beef, which you crumble in the pan and mix in with the carrots, adding the green part of the spring onions while you’re at it.
This I finish with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice for the brightness, and some fresh cilantro if I have it, and end up with the most comforting and satisfying weeknight dinner there is. And a very quick one, too, especially if I’ve found the time to trim, wash, and halve the vegetables earlier in the day (I then keep them in an airtight container in the fridge).
Join the conversation!
Are you able to find that kind of tiny carrot where you live, and what do you like to do with them? Is there any ingredient that you’ve learnt didn’t need as much fastidious prep as you once thought it did?
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- 700 grams (1 1/2 pounds) small new carrots (weighed with the tops trimmed off, about 4 bunches of 10); regular carrots can be substituted
- 1 bunch fresh scallions
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or duck/chicken/pork fat
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chili pepper, or more to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- a splash of white wine or stock (optional)
- 200 grams (7 ounces) organic ground beef, thawed if frozen
- 1/2 fresh lemon or lime
- fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
- Trim the tops off the carrots, leaving a 1-cm (1/2-inch) stem or trimming it off altogether depending on how fresh it looks. Wash in several baths of fresh water, rubbing the carrots together so they'll scrub one another's skin, and making sure you get the grit out of the stems as they can be sandy. (If using regular large carrots, simply peel and wash them.)
- Cut the carrots lengthwise in halves or quarters, depending on their thickness, so they're all about the same thickness. (If using regular large carrots, cut them into sticks about 10 cm [4 inches] in length and 1 cm [1/2 inch] in width.)
- Slice the scallions thinly, reserving white and green parts separately.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the carrots and scallion whites, sprinkle with cumin, ground chili, and salt, and stir well to combine. Add a splash of water, white wine, or stock, place a cover slightly ajar on the pan, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until the carrots are tender and the liquids are mostly evaporated.
- Push the carrots to the sides to create space in the middle of the pan. Add in the meat and crumble it with a wooden spoon, then combine it with the carrots. Add the scallion greens and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring regularly, until the meat is cooked. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Serve immediately, with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.