Friday, October 10, 2014

Vinegar Carrots with Toasted Sesame Seeds

People often ask me how I pick my recipes. Do you set out with a recipe in mind, they ask, or do certain ingredients inspire the dish? The answer is a bit of both. For example, now that it is fall, I feel obliged to add a new hearty soup to my repertoire and will google accordingly. But other times, the ingredients just speak to me (hello!) as was the case with this Vinegar Carrots with Toasted Sesame Seeds recipe. On a weekly trip to the Union Square Farmers Market, I came across the most beautifully rainbowed bunches of carrots I'd ever seen. Creamy ivory, golden yellow, and deep, regal violet stalks accompanied the expected orange taproot; complete with cartoonish big, bushy green tops.

At the farmers market, my beta-carotene buddies didn't just speak to me—they shouted with glee. "Pick me! Are we not the most colorful bunch of carrots you've ever seen? How excited are you to cook with us!" And finally, "can you not just roast us though? That's boring."

Ok, I conceded. But which to pick: the fat, rotund roots or the thin, delicate bunch?  In a rush I grabbed the former, a decision I was grateful for later on: the thicker carrots peeled wonderfully for this quaint little side salad.

I loved this recipe because the ingredients are mainly pantry items, but the end result was so unique and delightful that I felt, flavor-wise, like I was experiencing something completely new. Pleasingly nutty, tangy and acidic, and kickin' in heat and honey; each ribbon packs quite the flavor punch. As the weather cools and our appetites gear up for heavier grub (stews, roasts, etc), think of this light, lithe carrot salad as a choice side to accompany that hearty fare. It's easy to evolve this side into a main too: just add spiced chickpeas and a heaping cup of cooked quinoa for an easy, healthy, and certainly colorful fall lunch or dinner.

Vinegar Carrots with Toasted Sesame Seeds (from The New Persian Kitchen)

  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds (white or black)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, cut lenthwise into thin ribbons via peeler or matchsticks via mandoline
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, tightly packed

1. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the sesame seeds and alternate between shaking the pan and stirring the seeds. When the seeds start to pop, after a couple of minutes, transfer them to a plate and let cool to room temperature.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegars, honey, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and 1/4 tsp salt. Pour the dressing over the carrots, add the cilantro, and toss well. Season with salt, to taste, and serve. (If you can, make the salad a few hours before serving to let the carrots soak up the dressing.)

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