I was already thinking carrots when I came across a blog post by Sarah, of the beautiful Casa Yellow blog (casayellow.com). She tells a very evocative story of charred carrots – think way beyond a gentle roast – that you really should read for yourself. Immediately, the idea clicked.
Moments later, I came across a post by the prolific Joy the Baker (joythebaker.com) about the wonder of roasted citrus. She slices them with the peel on, splashes some olive oil and herbs about, oven roasts them, and serves them with breakfast-y things. I wondered if they might go well with my carrots. There was only one way to find out.
I got out my mother’s large, old cast iron skillet and heated it up. I tossed the carrots (I peeled and sliced them on an acute diagonal) in,
and let them char – there is no other word – as I moved them gently around. I worked in small batches so all carrots could come in contact with the bottom of the skillet at once. When done, I scooped them out onto a baking sheet and charred up another batch.
Once the carrots were done, I peeled and suprêmed (see January 13 post, Luck Times Three) some Cara Cara oranges and a lone pink grapefruit. I used what I had, in other words. Again, I tossed them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and also added some fresh
thyme snipped from the plant in the bay window. It’s so tender that I could chop it up, stems and all. I heated the skillet again to medium-high, and again worked in two batches to pan-roast the fruit. It disintegrated some, which didn’t surprise me, as it lacked the peel to hold it together. It also didn’t bother me. I had my sights set on a surprising flavor combination.
At the same time, I was cooking some pearl couscous and quinoa over which to serve the carrots and citrus. I used vegetable stock, it being Meatless Monday and all, but chicken stock would work just fine. I also added the retained juices from the suprêmed citrus, and squeezed the center membranes to release all their wonderful juices.
Just as the couscous-quinoa was done, I fluffed it up while also stirring in some minced mint and the juice of one Meyer lemon. I pulled the couscous out onto a platter and arranged the carrots and citrus over the top, then garnished it all with some crumbled Feta cheese.
I could have eaten it standing up at the stove. The deep sweetness of the carrots in combination with the citrus-y notes of the caramelized citrus, the lemon, and oh the mint! I tasted a surprise that far exceeded my hopes.
CHARRED CITRUS-Y CARROTS WITH PEARL COUSCOUS
4 carrots, peeled, sliced on an acute diagonal
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
4 citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit), peeled, suprême
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
Fresh thyme, minced, 1 teaspoon
8 ounces pearl couscous
16 ounces reserved citrus juices and vegetable stock, together
Fresh mint, minced, 1 teaspoon
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
Crumbled Feta cheese for garnish, about 1/2 cup
Fresh thyme, minced
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Toss carrots with enough olive oil to coat, but not leave them swimming. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully spoon into hot skillet. Smooth them out into a single layer. Charring them is going to require an act of faith. You really do want them singed, charred, not just caramelized. Your sense of smell will tell you when it’s time to give them a gentle stir. The deep flavors that you’ll taste will amaze you. Though, if someone hollers out to ask what’s burning, you probably shouldn’t answer, “Your dinner!” When done, transfer to a baking sheet. Finish the second batch the same way.
- For the citrus fruits, again heat the skillet to medium-high. Film the bottom with olive oil. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to lift the fruits out of their juices and into the skillet. Pour the juices into a liquid measuring cup. Season the fruits with salt and pepper, and add the fresh thyme. Again, let them sear on one side, then gently stir them around. Don’t worry if they disintegrate. They’ll cook much more rapidly than the carrots. When done, transfer to baking sheet with the carrots.
- I used about 3/4 pearl couscous and 1/4 quinoa because I like the combination. You are welcome to use all of one or the other, though the pearl couscous stands up nicely to the texture of the carrots. Add enough vegetable stock to the citrus juices to equal 16 ounces. Pour it into a stainless steel saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then add the couscous, cover the pot, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then taste to see if done. If so, remove from heat and stir in the mint and lemon juice. Taste, and adjust seasoning for salt and pepper.
- Arrange couscous on a serving platter. Toss the carrots and citrus fruits together, and scatter them over the top. Garnish with crumbled Feta cheese, and if you wish, more fresh thyme.
- Happy Monday!