Well, down jackets have been washed, dried and officially put away for the season – finally! I don’t know if winters feel more brutal every year because they are actually getting colder, snowier and endlessly longer or that I’m finally realizing my destiny is to move back to Miami to sit on a lounge chair under swaying palm fronds and a light coating of perspiration. I said “never again” to the latter, but now that I wrote those words it sounds kind of doable.
Living in the moment, however, I took myself to the Greenmarket in Union Square last Saturday – our first really glorious “hey, it’s sunny and 70!” day since sometime last year. The farmer’s markets near my town won’t open for another month, which made it a good day to experience New York City’s largest outdoor food market, open all year round.
It’s still a tiny bit early in the season for asparagus and strawberries (pouty face), but a stand in the market, Norwich Meadows Farm, had a few interesting kinds of Japanese heirloom carrots. I bought some that were colored red-rosy orange like an August sunset. They were small and gnarly, possibly wintered over, but still hard to resist.
I spent the rest of the day wandering around the city, and made a stop at greecologies, a “yogurt lab” on the Lower East Side. I left with a small container of their thick, housemade strained yogurt made with Hudson Valley milk.
So there was the inspiration for these roasted carrots, and the almond spice topping – addictive I warn you – is based on dukkah, an Egyptian spice mix I might need to carry around everywhere I go from now on, in a little snuff box.
I riffed my version of the spice mix from Boston chef Ana Sortun, who in turn discovered it from Middle Eastern food historian Claudia Roden (whose Book of Middle Eastern Food is desert island material), using almonds in place of the more traditional hazelnuts mostly because I didn’t have any.
Welcome to spring, and more fresh things to eat very soon.
If your carrots don't have greens attached, use a bit of chopped fresh cilantro or parsley or sprinkle with tiny sprouted greens. You'll probably end up with more of the spiced almond mixture then needed, but the rest will keep in a covered container for a few weeks.
- 1/3 cup whole raw almonds
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 pound small carrots, with greens
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 an orange or lemon
- Sea salt
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- Place a small heavy skillet over medium heat; add the almonds and heat until fragrant and lightly toasted, tossing frequently. Add the sesame seeds and heat until the seeds begin to pop; transfer to a bowl. Add the coriander and cumin seeds to the same skillet and toast 3 -5 minutes, just until fragrant. Add to the nuts along with the salt. Pound the mixture in a mortar to form fine, even crumbs, or chop in a spice grinder.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Trim the carrots, reserving the green tops, and slice some in half lengthwise so that they're all about the same thickness. Toss on a small rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, orange juice and generous pinch of salt. Roast until carrots are tender and browned on the tips.
- Wash a small handful of the carrot greens and chop. Stir the yogurt until smooth and creamy and spread over the bottom of a serving plate. Arrange the carrots on top of the yogurt. Sprinkle with the some of the spiced almonds and greens.