More veg, less meat. That’s a big food trend this year, witnessed by the popularity of Meatless Mondays and vegetarian cookbooks such as Plenty More (see my Cauliflower Cake recipe). People aren’t necessarily giving up meat and going vegetarian, but just trying to eat more vegetables and limit meat consumption. Last summer my oldest daughter, Libby, out of the blue, decided she was vegetarian. At that time we were already trying to eat more veg and less meat – probably at least two meatless meals a week. The rest of the family still eats meat, but I have to say we eat far less of it and it’s not always the focus of the meal.
So with eating more vegetables, I needed to add more veggie recipes to my repertoire. I’ve become a huge fan of roasting vegetables. It gives the best flavor – soft on the inside, crisp on the outside, with a bit of caramelization. Also, it’s way easier to overcook while steaming and end up with mushy veg. They don’t go mushy when you roast. Roasted carrots have become a family favorite. Kids love the natural sweetness, especially when accentuated with a splash of maple syrup or a sprinkling of brown sugar.
I came up with this recipe when I received a bunch of carrots, greens intact, from my weekly Abel & Cole veg box. I hated to clip off the tops and throw them away, so I googled what to do with them. Turns out, there’s quite a bit – chop and sprinkle in your salad, add into your latest home-juicing combo and then there’s my favorite…make pesto. And then my frugal side really kicked in and I thought why not use the carrot tops with the carrots and Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto was born.
Use the carrot-top pesto just as you would traditional basil pesto. Toss it with pasta, spread it on pizza instead of tomato sauce, dollop on soup (goes really nice with carrot soup!) or toss with other roasted vegetables (potatoes, parsnips).
Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto (serves 4 as a side dish)
Note: Toast pine nuts in a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Just be careful to watch the pan as they can go quickly from toasted to burned (should take 2-3 minutes total cooking time). Save extra pesto and toss with pasta, dollop onto soup, use on homemade pizza instead of pizza sauce, and whatever else you’d do with traditional basil pesto.
1 bunch of carrots (about 1-1.5 lbs, 0.5 -0.7 kg)
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
5-6 tablespoons olive oil, separated
4 tablespoons (10 grams) grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425º F (400º C).
Cut off the greens from the carrots. Rinse under cold water, removing any dirt. Shake off excess water (don’t have to dry as the water will provide liquid for the pesto). Remove any particularly thick portions of the stem. Place leaves and smaller stems in a food processor along with the garlic clove, 4 tablespoons olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse until you have a smooth puree, scraping down sides when necessary (I had to scrape down twice). Add an additional tablespoon or two of olive oil if pesto is too thick.
Give the carrots a good scrub and trim the ends. If carrots are more than 1″ (2.5 cm) thick, cut in half vertically; if not, leave them whole. Slice the carrots diagonally into 1.5″ (4 cm) long slices. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Carrots may seem crowded, but they’ll shrink while cooking. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, rotating pan after 10 minutes.
Place carrots in a serving bowl. While still hot toss with 2-3 tablespoons of carrot-top pesto, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve. Leftover pesto should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 3 days or freeze for later use.