I love roasting carrots, in just a coat of olive oil and pinch of sea salt. But now that it’s reached almost ninety degrees in New York City, cranking up the oven to 400 degrees seems less than appropriate. On the contrary, goading your friend with a rooftop patio to throw an impromptu barbecue absolutely does. So after a day spent lazing on Brighton Beach, on the first truly hot day of spring, last Saturday, I found myself successfully planted on said rooftop (Karol’s) before a charcoal grill just like the way everything was supposed to be. Or maybe not everything. Because I’d had some carrots at home, I thought I’d bring them along to throw on the grill. Thing is, I’ve never grilled carrots before. And as I looked around at my friends, no one else had, either. (Once again, I defer to the almighty mantra of “Why not?” in situations with food like this.) Turned out, it ain’t no thing at all.
Grilled carrots are great — charred and just softened around the edges, still a bit crunchy in the center. And coated in a brown sugary, ginger and garlic marinade, they were sweet and just zesty enough to set the mood for summertime, in the spring. I’ll admit the shape can prove problematic especially if your grill has spacious slats in between the bars. Some of these morsels fell victim to the ashen charcoal in the end. But it was well worth the casualty count in my opinion.
Bettering the situation was the good fortune of getting some radish-shaped Thumbelina carrots on my recent trip to Garden of Eve farm. The moment I saw them I fawned over them to Melissa like a kid would a puppy in a storefront window. I can’t think of a more apt name for these carrots than “Thumbelina”: they’re cute, they remind me of simple, storybook pleasures, and they’re ridiculously sweet. Once I peeled off their thin layer of dirt-clogged skin and stray wisps of reaching roots, these carrots were oh so orange underneath, and their sweetness I could distinctly smell.
If you don’t have Thumbelina carrots (via a fairy-like friend on an organic farm, free, no less), you can still roast carrots on your grill this spring and summer. Try slitting them into halves, and be sure to keep an eye on the grill as you’ll want to remove the much smaller pieces before the thicker, meatier hunks (a disparity which seems pretty unavoidable with regular, cone-shaped carrots).
Also scored on my trip to Garden of Eve was a bunch of freshly greenhouse-grown pea shoots. If you haven’t tasted pea shoots, when they’re young in the spring, I admonish you to give them a try. Like watercress, they have sturdy little stems full of crispness, but with a sorrel-like sweetness in their leaves. You definitely need not travel far to find pea shoots at this time. Queens County Farm Museum is selling them at the Union Square Greenmarket this Friday, as well as many other small farms there and even supermarkets. Because I had such assertive flavor from the carrots and those shoots are so delicate, I coated them in just a little olive oil and lime juice to serve right away, with a dash of salt and pepper.
This salad could have taken more heat and flavors than that, surely. Pretty soon, snap peas and freshly hulled English peas would add a delicate mealiness to such an in-between season dish. But as it was — and since it was so easy just taking along a plastic bag filled with the cut carrots marinating in their gingery juices — it made a fine veggie accoutrement to the barbecue. (I’d recommend double-bagging them if traveling, just to be safe.) After all, what more could you need than peas and carrots? Like Forrest Gump said, they go together like…
Ginger-Glazed Grilled Carrot and Pea Shoot Salad
(makes about 4-6 servings)
1 lb carrots, peeled, halved and chopped to 1-2″ pieces
about 3 cups fresh pea shoots
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
dash of salt and pepper
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the carrot pieces with the garlic, ginger, juice of half the lime, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper in a bowl and toss well (or combine in a plastic bag and shake). Let marinade for 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Heat a grill to a high flame. Place carrots on the rack split-side down. Cover grill and let cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove cover, and flip carefully once. Cook another 2-4 minutes or until the largest chunks have charred on both sides (removing smaller pieces that have charred first). Let cool a few minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the pea shoots with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and juice of half the lime. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss in the carrots and serve immediately.
(for 4-6 servings)
1 lb Thumbelina organic carrots (at $2/lb, rough estimate): $2.00
3 cups pea shoots (at $4/quarter lb): $4.00
1 lime: $0.15
2 tablespoons brown sugar: $0.10
2 clove garlic, 1 Tb fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper: $0.25
Three brownie points: Pea shoots are filled with Vitamin C, Vitamin A and folic acid, hence, antioxidants, beta-carotene and B-vitamins, and when they’re eaten fresh, all the more. Even when cooked, the carrots will ensure that you’ve met your Vitamin A allotment for the day, although they’re naturally high in sugars and the extra brown sugar and caramelization will add to that.
Nine maple leaves: It’s hard to imagine a more simple and farm-grown meal than a salad of merely two ingredients from an organic farm. Alright, so the seasonings definitely weren’t in season, in these parts, at least — lime and ginger. You could even let the roasted carrots, with just a little olive oil to keep them from sticking to the grill, ride on their own for this salad as an alternative.