Carrots and Garlic

Summer into winter

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

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 are in season right now.

Following 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.

Both garlic and carrots have long storage lives, making it possible to eat them from your own garden all year long. But their flavors vary, depending on the time of year, which could, if you’re the sensitive type, influence what you do with them.

Freshly harvested garlic has more zing than cured garlic, but summer carrots are less sweet than when they are harvested in fall, after a few frosts. This makes the aforementioned salad less advisable in summer, especially given the many leafy salad options that are available. But in winter, when the carrots are sweet and the fresh (local) greens are long gone, shredded carrot and garlic salad is more likely to hit the spot.
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 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 cup’s worth. Bake them at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, until they’re tender and lightly browned—about 30-45 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 pureed. 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 that 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.

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 ginger, chopped. 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 will thicken as it cools into a variation of carrot mayo. Of course, ending up with ginger and onion carrot mayo doesn’t suck either.

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