If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.
Today: Carrots don't have to be boring, and neither do you.
Let’s stop pretending we don’t judge people by what they cook, what they eat, what they order on a first date. Before you recoil, I promise you this kind of evaluation is human, and it’s mostly good: It makes us decide that we’d like the date who orders two whiskeys (one for you) to stay and the friend who wields jars of anchovies because she’s a little fearless and you like that in a cook. We pay attention because food choices show quirks—they’re all paragraphs and pages and we’d be remiss not to read them.
Watch this: Am I making scrambled egg tacos? I am resourceful, and probably also two cocktails deep. Potato salad? I might pretend to be sturdy, but I’m a twinge sentimental—and I’d only tell you that if you asked me outright. I’m a King Cone fan, through and through, and so what if my mom did tell me I was born to lead?
Carrots are safe, so you might think I only commit to what I know won’t let me down. They are easy to make well and very difficult to mess up; here, you might think no one ever taught me that the “path of least resistance” is really just code for “lazy,” a poetic euphemism to mask an unambitious choice, vegetable or otherwise. You’re assuming I like indecisive, semi-firm mild cheeses and comfortable banquettes and crustless sandwiches. I get it: You’re concluding that the person who opts for carrots—on a table full of side dishes or in the kitchen—has no interest in taking risk. You think I live very, very far from the edge.
But that’s because you don’t know about this carrot-top pesto. It’s where all of the recklessness and adventure lives, and by our above transitive logic, its inclusion in this dish—and my choosing to cook it—might also make me reckless and adventurous, too.
I have April Bloomfield to thank for saving me from my plain-Jane personality test fate. In her new book, A Girl and Her Greens, she coaxes a mop of miniature carrot top ferns into a punchy, loud pesto. And if you think about it, this is kind of badass. Carrot tops are a) the closest we get to mohawks in the world of produce, and b) cooking with them is to make use of something we usually toss in the trash. Trash pesto! I think my mom would call me punk rock for making these carrots. I think she’d tell me I shouldn’t let anybody tell me otherwise.
April has you blister your carrots on the stovetop and then cook them in the oven—a treatment we know and love for fat steaks, now applied to vegetables. She’d ask you to arrange and plate and dollop the pesto artfully on the cooked carrots, but I’d ask you to slather the whole mess in pesto pre-serving, because why the hell not, and honestly, I really like tossing things in sauces with my bare hands. (If you want to read into that one, I’m all ears.) For thoroughness, April piles on top of this a few moons of burrata. Again: Why the hell not? Come a little closer to the edge with me.
Serves 4 to 6
For the carrot top pesto:
4 cups lightly packed washed carrot tops, stems discarded and roughly chopped, a small handful reserved
Handful basil leaves
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
1 medium garlic clove, halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the carrots:
20 small carrots, scrubbed and tops trimmed but stems left on
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 teaspoon plus a few pinches flaky salt
1/2 pound burrata, drained and at room temperature
3 tablespoons carrot top pesto, plus more to taste
Small handful basil leaves
Half a lemon
Bread, for serving (optional)
Photos by James Ransom