Roasted Carrot and Pearl Couscous Salad

Here’s a party-worthy salad layered with flavor, that you can call a main course or a sumptuous side:

Carrot Couscous Salad Platter

This salad does not hold back on herbs and spice. Handfuls of garden herbs and a shake of the contents of your spice drawer build layers of flavor and freshness into this bright and festive couscous platter. Israeli couscous (also known as pearl couscous) is made of wheat flour and semolina which is rolled into tiny “pearl” balls and then toasted. The dried couscous, once purchased, is simmered in a liquid to soften. I like to toast the dried couscous in the pan first, before adding the liquid to simmer, which essentially means the couscous is doubly toasted. This extra step adds satisfying nutty flavor and golden color to the sturdy little semolina balls.

Carrot Couscous Salad with Pine Nuts

Purchase rainbow carrots for this salad, if possible, since they add a brilliant array of color to the platter. Choose thin carrots of uniform size to ensure similar cooking time. If necessary cut thicker carrots in half lengthwise.

Roasted Carrot and Israeli Couscous Salad with Pine Nuts and Arugula

Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups Israeli (pearl) couscous
2 1/4 cups water
Salt
1 small red chile pepper, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 ½ pounds thin rainbow carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise if thick
Freshly ground black pepper

Gremolata:
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped dill
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 to 4 cups baby arugula
2 to 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/2 lemon, plus wedges for serving

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet. Add the couscous and toast over medium heat until golden, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the couscous to a bowl and stir in the chile pepper, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Let stand at room temperature while you roast the carrots.
2. Heat the oven to 425°F.
3. Place the carrots in a large bowl, drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and lightly season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread the carrots on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until lightly charred and crisp tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly or to room temperature.
4. Make the gremolata: Mix the parsley, cilantro, dill, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.
5. Scatter the arugula on a serving platter or in a wide shallow serving bowl. Spoon the couscous over and around the arugula and arrange the carrots on top. Squeeze the half lemon over the salad and sprinkle evenly with the gremolata. Garnish the platter with the lemon wedges and serve.

Lean into Winter with Root Vegetable Fries

Roasted Root Vegetable FriesRoasted Roots

When it’s cold and gray outside, it’s the season for root vegetables. We can count on our not-so-fair weather friends to usher us through the frigid months, gracing our tables and fortifying our diets with their sweet, nutrient-rich roots. These winter work horses are storehouses of energy, flavor and natural sugar – guaranteed to brighten up your plate and palate on a dreary chilly day.

In this recipe, root vegetables replace the ever-popular russet potato, and while they are called “fries” they are, in fact, oven roasted, so you can feel virtuous while you scarf down a batch. Mix and match your favorite roots and spices to your taste. If you can get your hands on purple sweet potatoes, give them a try – they have a slightly spiced and earthy flavor, and remain firm while roasting. As for peeling, I prefer to leave my organic root vegetables unpeeled, and simply give them a good scrub, since their skins are a wonderful source of nutrients and flavor. Roast one root vegetable or choose a variety for striking color. I like to use a combination of parsnips, carrots, celery root, rutabaga, and sweet potato.

Roasted Root Vegetable Fries

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots, celery root, rutabaga, and sweet potato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Dipping Sauce:
3/4 cup Greek whole milk yogurt
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Cut the root vegetables into 2-inch batons, about 1/3-inch thick. Place in a large bowl. Add the oil and generously season with salt and pepper; toss to thoroughly coat.
2. Spread the vegetables in one layer on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast on the lowest rack of the oven until golden brown on the bottoms, about 15 minutes. Move the baking sheet to the top rack of the oven and roast until tender and golden brown on top, about 15 more minutes. (If desired, turn on the broiler for the last few minutes of roasting.)
3. While the vegetables are roasting, whisk dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
4. Serve the fries warm with the dipping sauce.

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Carrot Hummus

Move over chickpea hummus, there’s a new ingredient town.

Who doesn’t like a good hummus? Mild, nutty, and agreeably versatile, this creamy Levantine dip is a go-to for snacks, spreads, and party dips. It’s also a wonderful starting point for variations, such as carrot hummus.

Carrot hummus, you say? You bet: Picture your favorite Middle Eastern hummus – the ubiquitous blend of chickpeas, sesame paste (tahini), olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Then, send it further west to North Africa, picking up a few more ingredients along the way, such as coriander, mint, and harissa, a fiery Moroccan chile paste. Now, add the carrots, but before you do, roast them first, softening the carrots to a blending consistency, coloring them with a little char, and coaxing out their ample natural sugars. Give it all a good long blitz with the usual hummus ingredients in a food processor until thick, creamy, and smooth. Take a taste – it will be mildly sweet, slightly nutty, and a tad smoky, vividly colored and bright with citrus. Scrape it into a bowl and lick the spoon, then decorate the top with a shower of chopped crunchy pistachios and fragrant mint. Chances are you will never go back. 

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Makes about 2 cups
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Carrots:
1/2 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Hummus:
1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 to 2 tablespoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

Garnish:
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachios
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the carrots in a small baking dish. Add the oil, salt, cumin, and black pepper and stir to coat. Roast in the oven until the carrots are tender, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove and cool slightly.

2. Transfer the carrots and any pan juices to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining dip ingredients and process until smooth. If too thick, add additional olive oil or warm water to your desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

3. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl and garnish with the pistachios, mint, and extra black pepper. Serve with pita wedges, baguette, and/or cruditées.

Roasted Root Vegetable Fries

root fries

If you have a hankering for fries, try these spiced and roasted root fries for a healthy alternative. Switch out the go-to potato for nutrient-rich roots and tubers, such as sweet potato, rutabaga, carrot, and turnip. Mix and match the selection to your taste, but go for a colorful array, guaranteed to brighten your dinner plate. Slow roasting them will coax out the natural sugars which will encourage browning and slight caramelization, without the added fat of deep frying. Serve with a cooling yogurt dip spiked with Sriracha – not too heavy, low in fat, big on flavor. So, go on and indulge in this healthy winter snack and consider it a virtuous start to the new year.

Roasted Root Vegetable Fries
Leave the skin on the baked potato for extra nutrients and texture. If you can get your hands on purple sweet potatoes, give them a try – they maintain their firmness during roasting which makes for a great fry.

Serves 4 to 6

2 1/2 pounds assorted root vegetables, such as sweet potato, rutabaga, carrot, parsnip
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sriracha Yogurt Dipping Sauce:
1 cup Greek whole milk yogurt
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 425°F. Cut the root vegetables into 2-inch batons, about 3/8-inch thick. Place in a large bowl. This the oil, salt, cumin, paprika, and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the vegetables and stir to evenly coat.

Spread the vegetables in one layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven until browned on the bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Move the baking sheet to the top rack of the oven and bake until golden brown on top and tender but not limp, about 20 minutes.

While the vegetables are roasting, whisk the dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Serve the fries with the sauce for dipping.

Baked Root Vegetable Fries

root veg fries tastefood

You can have your fries and still feel virtuous with these colorful roots. Give the russet potato a well-deserved break, and substitute carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, or sweet potato for the ubiquitous spud. As their name implies, root veggies are the roots of growing plants, which means that they are storehouses of energy and nutrients. Not only that, they are jammed with pent up flavor and natural sugars, which translates to sweet, earthy, nuttiness on the plate.

Mix and match your favorite roots and spice to your taste. Simple salt and pepper is always a winner, or spice them up with a zesty mixture of cumin, paprika, and cayenne. And yes, you can have your dipping sauce too without tipping the scales. Try a cool and creamy Greek yogurt sauce infused with garlic and chipotle for a smoky, low fat and highly addictive sauce. Alternatively, ditch the sauce and ramp up the garlic notes with a zesty lemon, garlic and parsley gremolata.

Baked Root Vegetable Fries 
Serves 4 to 6

1 large parsnip
1 large carrot
1 medium sweet potato
1 medium rutabaga
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Chipotle Sauce:
3/4 cup Greek whole milk yogurt
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Lemon Gremolata:
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Heat the oven to 425°F. Cut the root vegetables in 2-inch batons, about 3/8-inch thick. Place in a large bowl. Add the oil,  salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread in one layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven until browned on the bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Move the baking sheet to the top rack of the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 20 minutes.

While the vegetables are roasting, whisk the chipotle sauce ingredients in a small bowl if using. Serve the fries with the sauce for dipping.

Alternatively, remove fries from oven and toss with the gremolata ingredients.

Packing Carrots

Packing Carrots

Moving is complicated when you have a garden. Just how much dirt should be transported from one abode to another can lead to a spirited debate in our house. My attitude is to keep the labor to a minimum, and harvest, harvest, harvest. Suffice to say, we have been eating a good deal of carrots lately. And there is a threshold where one crosses from eating just enough to too many fresh carrots. So, I made a soup with the extras. A lot of soup.

Carrot and Coriander Soup
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound carrots, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup cilantro sprigs, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, 3 minutes. Add carrots, ground coriander, cumin and cayenne. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until carrots are very soft, about 45 minutes. Carefully transfer soup to bowl of food processor or blender. Add cilantro sprigs. Purée until smooth. Return soup to pot. Stir in brown sugar, salt and pepper. Gently rewarm over medium heat. Serve soup warm garnished with fresh cilantro sprigs.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Spiced Carrot Croquettes with Yogurt Sriracha Sauce
Kale and Carrot Salad with Pecans and Cranberries
Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Chicken and Farro Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms

Chicken and Farro Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms

Simple Sunday dinner:
Chicken and Farro Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms

Following a busy, social weekend with big meals and late evenings, Sunday is nicely relaxed and peaceful with no reservations, no make-up and no agenda. Dinner will reflect simplicity and balance with fresh and light ingredients and minimal fuss. It’s a perfect moment for this restorative chicken soup, using leftover meat and homemade stock from last week’s roast. Carrots, shiitakes, and fresh snipped parsley from our terrace pots brighten and flavor the soup, while farro adds a little nutritional heft to this easy one-dish meal.

Chicken and Farro Soup with Carrots and Shiitakes
Serves 4

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, trimmed, halved if large
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup farro
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cooked chicken breasts, 12 to 16 ounces, shredded in large pieces
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Heat oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until it softens without coloring, 2 minutes. Add carrots and mushrooms. Sauté until carrots brighten in color and mushrooms begin to release their juices, 2 to 3  minutes. Add stock, farro, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer until farro is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in chicken and top off with additional stock if needed. Taste for seasoning. Simmer until chicken is heated through. Ladle into bowls. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.