Usually, when I’m making dinner, my primary focus centers on the main entrée. The side dishes get made, but my attention is elsewhere. It is just too stressful to cook three different recipes, that require a lot of ingredients, prepping, and have everything done at the same time. I love vegetables and don’t mind eating them without a lot of flourishment. Yet, they do deserve an opportunity to be front and center. Making a composed dinner doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, just a little foresight.
Most people like carrots. When my son Evan was young, carrots was one of the 3 vegetables he ate. This popular vegetable is easy to prepare and does not require a lot of pampering. It is one of the backbones used to make stocks, soup, stews, and braises. If you haven’t given carrots much thought, think again. Carrots are so much more than crudité. I love cooking with them because their natural sweetness and sturdy structure make it easy to pair with bold flavors on either the sweet and/or spicy side.
This recipe was inspired by a recipe written by Nigel Slater titled, Harissa Carrots. His recipe is delicious and is featured in his cookbook Eats. In Slater’s recipe, he blanches carrots, then mixes them with harissa paste, egg yolk, vinegar, and olive oil. The egg yolk in the dressing made it nice and creamy, but not suitable for a vegan diet. My idea was to make a carrot side dish that everyone could eat. So, keeping the flavor of Slater’s Harissa Carrots in my mind, I created a vegan dressing to compliment the carrots natural sweetness, provide some spicy-heat, and lots of fresh herbs. I have said it before and I will say it again, fresh herbs elevate any food from good to awesome. I do not cook without them.
In this recipe for Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots, I use three different types of herbs. I realize cilantro and dill do not have a big fan club. Yet, if you are willing to be adventurous then reduce the amount of cilantro and see if you like it in a blend. There are times when less is more, but this recipe is not one of them. However, if you do not want to commit to all three herbs, use one or two of them. Mint and dill are especially delicious with carrots. I want you to enjoy your meal, so if you know you don’t like something – don’t use it.
For me, I am no longer fearful or stingy with how I cook with herbs. Many recipes from Middle Eastern cuisine have inspired me to combine herbs and not use them by themselves. There are many herbs that complement each other, and tasting an abundance of the freshness is always welcome in a recipe.
Fortunately, making Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots is as easy as making a salad. Making this dish won’t take up a lot of your attention, but the results will taste as if you slaved all day. The spicy heat is in the background and will grow as you continue to enjoy your meal. I prefer all the ingredients to balance one another. This recipe is not about the heat but about balance and bringing all these flavors together to give carrots center stage.
Serve with any grilled meats and white meat fish. They are also delicious as part of a vegan bowl made with greens, carrots, chickpeas, a grain, and nuts. Enjoy!
Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots, Update February 7th, 2018:
This is also delicious made with roasted carrots. Roast the carrots in a 400°F / 204°C oven for 40 minutes or until the carrots are slightly soft in the middle but still firm and can hold its shape. Add the daikon radish and sweet n’spicy vinaigrette and serve warm.
Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots
- One inch piece of fresh ginger
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard smooth or grainy
- 2 tsp honey or 1 tsp maple syrup for a vegan recipe
- 1/4 tsp ground chili pepper* more if you want it hotter
- Zest from 1 lime
- Juice from half a lime reserve the other half to add if needed
- 1 Tb red wine vinegar*
- 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tb chopped cilantro
- 1 Tb chopped mint
- 1 Tb chopped dill optional
- 1 1/2 lbs / 683g medium size carrots
- 2 " piece of daikon radish 3 oz / 87g
Gently scrape off the thin skin of ginger using the edge of a teaspoon. Be careful not to dig into the flesh of the ginger root. Once the skin is removed, thinly slice the ginger and mince. Add to a small mixing bowl.
Add the Dijon mustard, honey, (maple syrup), ground chili pepper, lime zest and juice, vinegar, and Kosher salt into the bowl with the minced ginger. Whisk together until well combined.
Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, a little at a time. While you drizzle, whisk to create an emulsion. Once all the olive oil is added, give it a good whisk to keep the oil and acid from separating.
Taste the dressing and correct the seasoning to suit your taste.
Add the herbs, then whisk to combine. Set the sweet and spicy dressing aside while you prepare and cook the carrots.
Peel the carrots and trim the ends. Cut each carrot in half across the width, then cut each piece in half down the length. Cut all the pieces in half lengthwise to create long carrot strips.
Fill a medium saucepan with water and turn the heat up to high. Add a pinch of Kosher salt, a 1/4 inch sliver of ginger, and 2 crushed garlic cloves to the water. Bring the pot to a boil and add the carrots. Cook the carrots for 1-2 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Drain the carrots and pick out the garlic cloves and ginger. Add the carrots to a mixing bowl.
Peel and julienne the daikon radish in long thin strips. Add the daikon to the carrots and gently toss the carrots and daikon radish with your hands to mix together. Before you add the dressing taste it again and make any adjustments. Add the dressing, give it a gentle but good stir until the vegetables are evenly coated with the dressing.
Serve hot, warm or room temperature.
Use your favorite ground chili. The ground chili I used has a bright flavored heat, not a smokey one. Unfortunately, I do not know the name of it. I started with a quarter teaspoon of ground chili then added extra chili as needed. This meal is not about the heat, but about the balance of heat and sweetness.
Good substitutes are: your favorite ground chili powder, harissa paste, Thai chili paste, or sriracha. Adjust the amount you add to match the chili's heat. Example, if you use sriracha I would begin with 1/2 teaspoon then add more if desired. if needed. Just like cooking with salt, it is always good to start with less then add more.
Do not substitute balsamic vinegar for this dressing. Good substitutions are white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
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