I'm a proud member of the wonderful Crown Heights Farm Share, and I split a winter share with two friends. As such, I'm pretty well covered on root vegetables right now. Just to give you an idea of what farms produce through the cold winter months (or can store through the season), here's an example of what my friends and I received at the last pickup: 5 pounds sweet potatoes, 8 pounds Kueka Gold potatoes, 10 pounds storage carrots, 2 stalks of Brussels sprouts, 2 heads of broccoli, 1 piece of daikon radish, 1 head of Arrow cabbage, 1 bulb kohlrabi, 1 bunch of fresh field carrots, 5 pounds storage beets, 1 head of Napa cabbage, 1 bunch kale, 1 bunch green Romaine lettuce, 1 bunch red Romaine lettuce, 1 bunch green Oak lettuce, and 1 head green Boston lettuce.
As you can see, what we got was a mix of fresh produce (probably grown in a greenhouse or under plastic tarps) as well as storage produce, that's likely being kept in a cool, dark cellar. Getting a winter farm share is interesting, because it gives you some insight into what people were dealing with back in the days of eating truly locally. Although I supplement my share with imported produce like bananas and avocados, I also try to put myself in the mindset of, oh, say, a 19th century self-sufficient farmer, and try to envision what I would do to keep all those dark greens and starchy roots interesting for my family through the cold, dark months.
Altogether, my friends and I got more than ten pounds of carrots, in an array of beautiful colors. Here's my share of the loot:
Figuring out what to do with them wasn't hard. I instantly thought of soup, as most cooks do when faced with a surplus of perishable product. I knew I would cook the carrots down and purée them into something smooth and silky, but I wanted to keep the flavors zingy, as sometimes carrots (especially cooked carrots) can tend towards the blandly sweet. First, I decided that I would roast the carrots in the oven before cooking them in the broth, in order to bring out some of the complexities that high heat imparts to vegetables. Then I decided that I would throw a lot of strong, warming spices in with the usual salt and pepper on my carrots. So after a lot of peeling and chopping, I ended up with this:
That's the carrots, some oil and seasoning, plus generous amounts of whole cumin, coriander and mustard seeds. I tossed them and into the oven they went, emerging burnished and fragrant after about forty minutes. Then I sweated some onions, garlic and grated ginger in some olive oil, added the carrots and enough chicken stock to cover, and simmered for about forty minutes, until the carrots rehydrated and melded with the other flavors in the pot. Then, I busted out my handy immersion blender and puréed it all up, adding dollops of plain yogurt as I went. The end result is a surprisingly complex-tasting soup, warm and spicy from the whole seeds, but also cool and tangy from the addition of the yogurt. I actually think this would be excellent cold, but as it's (sort of) chilly outside, I've been eating it hot:
But wait, I'm not done with my carrot transformations yet! I kept the slender, fresh carrots to the side, cut them into little sticks, and pickled them in a brine made with apple cider vinegar, garlic, mustard seeds and fresh cilantro (I wanted to use dill, but I forgot to buy some). They'll be ready in ten days; I can hardly wait!
Spice-Roasted Carrot Soup with Yogurt
Serves 10 - 12
3 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into large, uniform chunks
Grapeseed, canola or other neutral oil
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tbsp. mustard seeds
2 large onions, peeled and cut into a medium dice
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. grated ginger
About 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
About 1 1/2 c. plain yogurt
1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Toss the carrots with a small amount of oil, the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Turn out onto a sheet tray and place in the oven, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes, or until the carrots are nicely browned. Set aside.
2. When the carrots come out of the oven, heat about 3 tbsp. of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onions and stir; a minute or two later, add the garlic and ginger. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions sweat and break down, about ten minutes. Add the roasted carrots and enough broth to cover. Bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes, until carrots plump up again.
3. Use an immersion or standard blender to blend the soup until smooth, adding more chicken stock as needed to maintain a fluid consistency. Work in the yogurt as you go. Squeeze in the juice of the lime and check for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper as needed. Serve hot or cold.
Adapted from Epicurious.com
Makes one jar
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
1 1/4 c. water
1 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. salt
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tsp. mustard seeds
Sprig of fresh herbs, such as dill or cilantro
1. Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Blanch the carrots in the water for one minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath, or run under cold water, to stop the cooking.
2. Choose an appropriate-sized glass jar for the carrots and place it and its lid in the boiling water. Boil for about 7 minutes to sanitize, then remove with tongs.
3. Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat.
4. Place carrot sticks in jar. They should fit closely together. Add mustard seeds, garlic and fresh herbs to the jar. Using a funnel, pour in the pickling liquid to top of jar, then seal tightly with the lid. The carrots should be left to pickle for about 10 days. Unopened, they will last for several months.