Flash in the Pan
Carrots and Garlic, Summer and Winter
Garlic loves carrots, carrots love them back, and I love them together, in the garden and on the table. They're both root vegetables, which we tend to think more about in winter than summer, but they’re in season right now. Here are three simple recipes that document this friendship: in salad, soup and the wonderful, intoxicating orange love paste known as carrot mayonnaise.
Carrots and garlic are cultivated and enjoyed the world over, and there are countless dishes containing both. I'll never forget a simple salad of shredded carrots with garlic that was served alongside fried trout in a cozy cabin in Siberia one February. Sweet, spicy and earthy, it was a welcome taste of fresh vegetables in the dead of winter. It was served plain, but I like it with a dressing of soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil and cider vinegar.
In Brazil, a land of endless summer, my life was changed with a single dollop of carrot mayonnaise. It was followed by another dollop. And another.
As carrot mayo contains no eggs, it's not true mayonnaise, which means that sworn mayo-phobes might enjoy it. But since it can be deliciously applied to most any savory dish, I believe it deserves honorary mayo status. In any case, carrot mayonnaise is what they called it in Brazil, which happens to be a place where the people really understand mayonnaise.
Nothing more than garlic, carrots, oil and seasonings, carrot mayo is very simple, yet very satisfying. It can serve as a spread, dip, condiment, side dish or main course. And while the flavor will change between summer and winter, it's always delicious.
To make carrot mayo, begin by slicing carrots into quarter-inch rounds until you have four cups’ worth. Bake them at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, until they're tender and lightly browned—about 30 to 45 minutes. They can also be steamed instead of baked for a milder, less complex flavor.
Allow the carrots to cool. Meanwhile, add a quarter cup of olive oil to a blender, along with one or more cloves of garlic depending on your taste. If you wish, include some herbs like oregano or marjoram. Blend until the garlic is fully puréed. As soon as the carrot chunks are cool enough to work with, add them to the blender and blend until smooth, adding another half-cup or so of olive oil so it blends smoothly. If the carrot chunks are still a bit hot when you add them to the blender, they will mellow the raw garlic, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your taste. When the mayo is blended, season with salt and blend again. Your carrot mayo is now ready.
I'll never forget a simple salad of shredded carrots with garlic that was served alongside fried trout in a cozy cabin in Siberia one February. Sweet, spicy and earthy, it was a welcome taste of fresh vegetables in the dead of winter.
In addition to its utility as either condiment or main dish, carrot mayo can also be used as an ingredient in more complex meals, such as this Indian-style recipe for garlic, ginger and carrot soup.
Make carrot mayo as above, but with no oregano or marjoram. Meanwhile, slowly caramelize one sliced onion in oil, along with two chopped garlic cloves and a cubic inch of chopped ginger. When the onions are browned and sweet, stir in a half-teaspoon of turmeric or curry powder, and kill the heat. Add the contents of the pan to the blender, along with a cup of water and your carrot mayo, and blend until smooth. Milk or cream can also be substituted for some of the water if you wish.
Depending on the season or your personal preference, this soup can be served hot or cold. For hot soup, pour it back into a pan and reheat, adding more liquid if necessary. If serving it cold, another cup of water will be necessary because it thickens as it cools into a variation of carrot mayo. Of course, ending up with ginger and onion carrot mayo doesn't suck either.
Carrots and garlic get along in the garden as well as the kitchen. Every spring I scatter carrot seeds between the rows of the garlic I planted the previous fall. The leafy carrot foliage spreads out among the spindly garlic plants, crowding out the weeds and shading the ground, which helps the soil retain moisture. The carrots stay on the small side until the garlic is harvested in early summer. After that, they take over and grow into honkers. To grow garlic and carrots together is a horticultural multitask in time and space, and I end up harvesting just as much of each as I would have growing each crop alone in that same space.
It's too late to plant a garlic and carrot patch this year, but it's the perfect time to plan one for next year. Alas, autumn is just around the corner, and that's when it's time to plant the garlic. When the garlic comes up next spring, it will be time to scatter the carrot seeds. And this time next year, you could be making homegrown carrot mayo.