Carrot Cookery

By Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD

Carrots are pretty and full of flavor, sweetness, and nutrients. They are very forgiving when overcooked, rarely losing their color or flavor. They can be stored fresh for months, but they don't object to being canned, frozen, or dried. And they are equally at home in sweet or savory dishes.

With carrots, you can create stuffings for vegetables, quick breads, muffins, cookies, puddings, chips, salads, roasted, grilled or baked vegetable dishes, soups, and sauces. Of course, there is always the ever-popular carrot stick, good for dipping or eating on its own.

There is a carrot type for everyone. Horse carrots are big, irregularly shaped orange carrots, sometimes with splits in them. Horse carrots tend to be older and more fibrous, making them good for long cooking, as in soups or stews. Baby carrots are miniature carrots, bred to resemble whole adult carrots. They are sweet and tender, requiring hardly any cooking at all. Those perfectly formed finger-shaped baby carrots sold in bags are larger carrots that have been cut, by machine or hand. This type of baby carrot was the producers' answer to making horse carrots more popular with consumers. Real baby carrots have not been processed, except to be cut. Small, round carrots are found in the springtime and are good for glazing, as their shape makes it easy for sauce to adhere.

There are also white carrots and maroon carrots. Maroon carrots have more beta carotene, the building block of vitamin A. White carrots, on the other hand, have a little less beta carotene than conventional carrots. Make a gorgeous salad of orange, white, and maroon carrots, and serve raw, as the maroon carrots lose their rosy glow when cooked.

Vitamin A is not carrots' only claim to fame. There are trace amounts of vitamin C in carrots, as well as fiber and lots of minerals. Due to their sugar content, carrots may have a few more calories from carbohydrates than other vegetables, but they have no sodium or fat. Unless you eat a very large number of carrots every day, you should not have to worry about the sugar content. It is possible to “overdose” on the Vitamin A in carrots. In the seventies, people got heavily into juicing and were drinking the equivalent of twenty carrots per day over a long period of time.

To peel or not to peel has been a long-standing carrot debate. If you know you've gotten your carrots from a reliable source (free of pesticides and chemical residue), then merely scrubbing is fine. Carrot peel does have a bit of bitterness, so cooks making vegetable stocks and broths tend to peel their carrots to avoid any bitterness in their long-cooking dishes. Aesthetically, the color of cooked carrots may be brighter when peeled. It's up to you what you'd like to do.

Grated raw carrots can be added to green salads, cole slaw, or pasta or potato salad, as well as used as a garnish for soups. In India, you'll find sweet carrot pudding, made with grated carrots stewed with sweetener, cream, and fruit juices. Who can forget carrot and raisin salad, one of the sweet spots in the salad world?

Carrots are cook-friendly. They will retain their nutrients and their color if you treat them with just a bit of care. The smallest amount of cooking liquid is always the best way to preserve nutrients in vegetables, and they should be cooked as quickly as possible. Just cover carrots with boiling water or vegetable stock. Don't let carrots sit in cold water as it heats up, as this destroys some of the nutrients. Drain cooked carrots as soon as possible so they are not sitting and losing nutrients. A fast and simple lemon carrot recipe couldn't be easier: cut up carrots, and then steam or boil them until just tender and drain. Return the carrots to the pot. For every 2 cups of carrots, use 2 teaspoons of fresh, chopped parsley, 1 Tablespoon of vegan margarine, and 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice. Toss the carrots with the seasonings and reheat just until carrots are hot. Serve these lemon carrots as a side dish or purée and use as a base for a “creamy” vegetable soup.

Carrot juice can be used as a cooking liquid for vegetables, rice, soup, and pasta. In fact, if you've carefully cleaned your carrots, you can cook pasta, rice, or other vegetables in the carrot cooking water. This is a thrifty way to save water and to get as many nutrients as possible from your carrots.

If you would like a change from raw carrot sticks, prepare the Pickled Carrot Sticks recipe on page 25. Or make carrot chips by peeling, washing, and patting dry thinly sliced carrots. Bake on a baking sheet at 400 degrees until crispy. If you have a barbecue, grill carrot slices for a smoky snack. Eat them hot, or store in a dry place in an airtight container until ready to use.

Combine carrot juice, puréed cooked carrots, silken tofu, and orange juice concentrate to make carrot custard. Blend the ingredients together and allow them to firm up in the refrigerator for several hours. Or bake carrot custard for about 30 minutes in a 375-degree oven, until it is set. If you add thyme, white pepper, and onion powder, you'll have a savory side dish to greens and potatoes. Add cinnamon and raisins, and you'll have a sweet dessert.

When making a bread or corn bread stuffing, add some grated carrots for color and sweetness. Grated carrots are a good secret ingredient to balance the flavors of spicy chilies, curries, or fiery soups. Add just enough for a hint of sweetness.

Carrot marmalade can be used as a condiment instead of ketchup, salsa, or chutney. It's a good ingredient, added lightly, to hearty soups, such as those made with broccoli, beans, or dried peas.

I can't think of any time of the day that's bad for carrots. Carrot muffins for breakfast, carrot soup for lunch, carrot chips for snacks, and grilled carrots for dinner.

The Recipes
Oniony carrots
Escalloped carrots
Cumin Carrot Soup
Carrot and Zucchini Bread
Carrot Marmalade
Mashed Carrots
Pickled Carrot Sticks

Oniony carrots

(Serves 4)

This can act as almost a carrot stew, served over steaming brown rice or herbed mashed potatoes.

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 pound peeled, sliced carrots
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley

In a medium-size pot, bring the broth to a boil and add the carrots. Reduce heat and simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving broth.

Spray a medium-size skillet with vegetable oil. Heat, and add onions. Cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and pepper. Stir and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add broth, cover, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Total calories per serving: 77 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 16 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 271 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Escalloped carrots

(Serves 4)

Pair this with jalapeño-corn muffins or lemon-braised spinach or kale for a colorful meal.

  • 1 pound carrots, sliced, cooked, and drained
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan margarine
  • 1 cup dried bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix carrots, pepper, flour, and broth.

In a small pan or microwave, melt margarine. Mix with bread crumbs.

Spread one half of bread crumb mixture on the bottom of a medium-size baking dish. Add carrots and cover with remaining bread crumbs. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Total calories per serving: 199 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 35 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 421 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Cumin Carrot Soup

(Serves 5)

Pictured on the cover, this "creamy" soup tastes rich and has a satiny finish.

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 1-½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch slices
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley (optional)
  • Shredded carrots (optional)

Spray a medium-size pot with vege-table oil and allow to heat. Add onions and cook until translucent and shiny, about 3 minutes.

Add carrots, cumin, and white pepper, and stir to combine. Add broth, bring to a fast boil, reduce heat, and allow to cook for 15 minutes or until carrots are very tender.

Put soup in a blender or processor and purée until smooth. Add soup back to pot and allow to heat thoroughly.

Garnish with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of fresh, uncooked shredded carrots.

Total calories per serving: 81 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 17 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 450 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Carrot and Zucchini Bread

(Makes 2 small loaf pans or about 24 one-ounce muffins)

Make a double batch and freeze one. It's great when toasted and served with carrot marmalade or paired with a hearty soup.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup silken tofu
  • 2 cups vegan granulated sweetener
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ½ cup puréed bananas
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, and cinnamon.

In a small bowl, whisk tofu until airy and frothy. Stir in sweetener, oil, bananas, carrots, zucchini, vanilla, and zest. Add to dry ingredients and mix only until combined. Stir in nuts.

Pour into greased and floured loaf pans or into muffin tins with inserted baking papers. Bake for 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Total calories per serving: 180 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 30 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 66 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Carrot Marmalade

(Makes about 5 pounds)

Make some for yourself and give some as an edible gift. Use this as a condiment with stronger vegetables, such as cabbage or cauliflower, or as a counterpoint to onions or garlic in soup or sauce recipes. It can also be used as an ingredient in salad dressings or marinades.

  • 3 pounds peeled, grated fresh carrots
  • 5 cups vegan granulated sweetener
  • ½ cup orange juice concentrate
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ½ pound minced almonds

Place carrots in a large pot, cover with water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Strain thoroughly, pressing out as much liquid as possible.

Return carrots to pot, and add sweetener, concentrate, and lemon juice. Stir and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, or until liquid is clear and thick. Add almonds.

This marmalade can be stored in the refrigerator for 4 days. If desired, it can be canned in sterilized jars, using safe canning techniques.

Total calories per Tablespoon: 30 Fat: 30 grams
Carbohydrates: 6 grams Protein: 0 grams
Sodium: 6 milligrams Fiber: 0 grams

Mashed Carrots

(Serves 4)

This dish adds color to special occasion meals and is a good counterpoint to cooked greens or cabbage.

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled, sliced, cooked, and drained
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan margarine
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh dill
  • ½ cup fresh seedless grapes, cut in halves

Place carrots in a blender or food processor and process to mash them. Mix in margarine and dill. Add grapes and process for just 30 seconds, so grapes become slightly mashed.

If you like, add 1/4 cup silken tofu, place in greased mold, and bake in 350 degree oven until set, about 30 minutes. Unmold and serve, garnished with grapes or cold peas.

Total calories per serving: 90 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 15 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 82 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Pickled Carrot Sticks

(Makes 1 pint)

You won't be able to make these fast enough. Eat them as a snack, add them to salads, or serve them as a garnish on soups or stews.

  • ½ pound peeled carrots, sliced ½-inch thick
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup vegan granulated sweetener
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spice

Boil carrots until just crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and place in sterilized glass containers.

In a medium-size pot, bring vinegar, water, sweetener, and pickling spice to a boil. Pour over carrots, seal, and refrigerate immediately. This will keep for 7 days in the refrigerator.

If preferred, carrots can be canned using sterile techniques for longer storage.

Total calories per 1/4 cup serving: 75 Fat: 0 grams
Carbohydrates: 19 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 35 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram