Dress top-quality carrots with carrot-top pesto

The Whole Dish Podcast: Make pesto from any tender herb, leafy green

You can do a lot with a little.

A dressed, spiced serving of raw root vegetable — carrots, specifically — can satisfy a craving for salad, as explained in this blog’s previous post. And if you’ve purchased locally grown and/or organic carrots, likely with their tops intact, don’t just toss those juicy greens onto the compost heap. They make a delicious pesto, like other vegetable tops and leafy greens that cooks typically pass over for basil.

But no one should be in the business of purchasing fresh basil leaves in the dead of winter. Use those sun-loving herbs with reckless abandon throughout the summer, just not this time of year.

Instead, scout around for thrifty, flavorful substitutes and pair them with the spectrum of acid, cheese and nuts to highlight their best attributes. Plucky parsley and cilantro are sizing up in the recent warm weather. Kale and collard greens are obvious choices, along with tops from any number of vegetables, such as beets, turnips and radishes. Related to parsley, the tops of carrots taste a bit like bitter frisee with, yep, a hint of carrot.

Here’s a recipe that warrants the purchase of top-quality carrots, tops included. Although the pesto for dressing the finished dish comes together while the carrots are roasting, it also could be made a day or two in advance. Just don’t use it all up first with your favorite pasta.

Tribune News Service photo

Roasted Carrots With Carrot-Top Pesto

2 bunches small carrots (about 12)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 cup packed chopped carrot tops

1/2 cup packed parsley leaves

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

Grated zest of a lemon

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Heat oven to 400 F. Trim greens from the carrots, leaving a half-inch or so bit of stem on top of each carrot. Spread carrots on a rimmed baking sheet, coat with the olive oil and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven until carrots are tender and golden, for 30 to 40 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes or so for even coloring.

In a food processor, combine carrot tops with the parsley, cheese, walnuts, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and sugar, pulsing until coarsely ground. This makes about 1 cup pesto. Serve with roasted carrots.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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