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Friday, June 24, 2011

In Praise of the Ordinary

I found this recipe somewhere recently and it called out to me since I had been seeing carrots at many of the stands at the Farmers Market recently. When I see that with any fruit or veg it indicates to me that they are in prime season. I have to admit carrots are not a particularly interesting vegetable, at least to me. They don't have the exotic quality of say, artichokes. I know celebrity Chefs are always coming up with out-of-the-ordinary items fixed in interesting ways - Cardoons come to mind. Not every new thing is successful since many of us would agree with Fran Leibowitz that "if someone has not thought to put together those items before perhaps there's a reason". With carrots I suppose their familiarity is what appealed. Well, that plus their bright color. We all know what a carrot is, even or especially children. This Spring I seem to be on a roll, using carrots far more than I remember ever doing in the past.

This would have been a great dish to take a picture of for all to see. But alas, I made it last week and did not take a picture. I almost didn't write about it but was going to send the recipe to daughter Bonnie because it was so simple and good and vegetarian. I had already sent the recipe to friend Maureen since she had heard me talking about it and asked for the recipe. Then I thought, why not write about it? Lots of people would like a dish that's simple and good and vegetarian.

Nothing is ever as simple as we think, I suppose. Through this recipe. I was exposed to some new things. I discovered that buying good fresh carrots like you get out of the farmers market or perhaps your own garden, does make a difference. Until I started cutting up these carrots which I made a point of buying fresh from the farmers market, I had not seen how moist carrots can be. All the ones I remember seem pretty dry by comparison.

And there were other discoveries. As I stood at the counter matchsticking all those carrots,a tedious task, I wondered why there wasn't an available tool for easy "matchsticking/julienne" of vegetables like this. Well there is! Afterwards, I visited two kitchen gadget stores in my area and found the tool, which I haven't bought yet. I have to figure out how often I do julienne vegs (not often). I do have another recipe where I matchstick carrots, zuccinis and summer squash but it hasn't seemed quite as laborious as just carrots. I don't know that it's important to have a special gadget for just that. One thing leads to another. Life becomes more complicated all because of a simple vegetarian recipe.

But getting past all that, it is a good recipe. I added a parsnip to the mix since I like the flavor and texture of parsnips and they are the same shape as carrots. I only added one because I was aware that the bright color of the carrots was an important factor for the dish and I did not want to overshadow that. The parsnips tasted great and next time I will add two! The fresh tarragon that's called for was wonderful and distinctive on this too.

Maybe next time I will remember to take a picture.


Braised spring carrots & Leeks with tarragon

(Serve this sweet springtime dish as a starter or side dish, or as part of a vegetarian main dish with grains or pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound leeks halved lengthwise, cleaned and sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound carrots, peeled, halved or quartered lengthwise if thick, then cut in 2-inch lengths (matchstick)

1/2 cup water

Salt to taste

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan or lidded skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt. Cook gently until just about tender, about three minutes. Do not allow the leeks to color. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add the carrots, water(I used chicken broth) and salt to taste, and bring to a simmer.

Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes until the carrots are tender when pierced with a knife. Stir in the lemon juice and tarragon. Taste and adjust salt. Transfer to a platter if desired, making sure to scrape out the tasty residue from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. Serve hot, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature. If serving at room temperature, sprinkle with additional fresh tarragon just before serving.

Yield: Serves four.

Advance preparation: You can make this a day ahead without the pasta or grains and reheat gently. Then add to your selected starch. Add more tarragon before serving.

I put this on 1/2 lb of linguine. I imagine that fettucini or penne would be just as good but used linguine because Steve likes linguine.

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