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Monday, September 22, 2008

oven-roasted carrot slices


brain candy

Lately I’ve loved several books about eating locally. Topping my list is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. What a beautiful story about family, friends, and food…  taking care, living mindfully, and enjoying the pleasures of home. Right up my alley! 

Admittedly not that recently (I read it two summers ago) I read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, and it changed the way I thought about food and eating. I started it, stopped long enough to strong-arm my bookclub into reading it with me (we’re not allowed to assign books we’ve already read) and then plowed ravenously through it. I came out the other side with a commitment to try and distance myself from the corporate food industry, supporting local food growers as much as possible. 

Pollan’s followup book, In Defense of Food, was also a pleasure to read. While his books are thought-provoking and informative, his voice is never shrill, and I really enjoy his sense of humor. Plus, he loves to cook and eat!

I enjoyed Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon, but not enough to recommend it highly. But I really enjoyed Mike Madison’s essays about farming and farmers’ markets: Blithe Tomato (Mike Madison is the brother of Deborah Madison, one of my very favorite cookbook authors!). I sell my whole-grain sourdough bread every week at our local farmers’ market, and it’s fun to read about someone else’s wacky market experiences. My market days are always interesting—and some are stranger than others.

M.F.K. Fisher’s essays are always so wonderful, too… I’ve just read an assortment of her short works called A Stew or a Story that made me laugh and think and, best of all, realize that I’m not alone in my preoccupation with cooking and eating great food… 

But I crave more of these books! I’m sad when I finish them. I love the day-to-day stories of people’s finding, cooking, and eating food. Especially with the added challenge of searching out local sources!! Reading these books is like brain candy! But wait! It’s not really like candy—it’s more healthy that that! It’s more like snacky, delicious roasted carrots for the brain, browned and crispy and redolent with their own caramelized sugars, eaten right off the baking sheet before I can even get them to the table.

So, there you have it—the perfect fall dish to snack on while curled up with a book about local food. Nothing more local, or sweet and flavorful, than Alaskan carrots in September! Yum.

Can you help me find more great books about cooking and eating great local food? Have you read any that you’d recommend? What about blogs about eating locally that you’d like to share? Please add your suggestions to the “comments” field!! 

oven-roasted carrot slices

I love roasting carrots like this. The sugars in the carrots caramelize, and because they are cut into small pieces, there is a lot of surface area to brown and get yummy and toasty. They cook quickly, too. They are wonderful for snacking on, serving as part of an array of party snacks, eating as a side dish, or tossing into a salad. Last night I dumped a pile of these bright little coins into a salad with green lettuce, my mustardy garlicky red-wine vinaigrette, and chopped pistachios. Oooh, it was awfully good!

I love having a container in the ‘fridge so I can munch on them when I get hungry. If you want, you can add a teaspoon of chopped thyme when you toss the carrots with their olive oil and salt.

1 pound of Alaskan carrots—the biggest you can find.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
2. If the peels seem tough, peel the carrots, but in the summertime you don’t have to peel Alaskan carrots. Just wash them well.
3. Slice the carrots into 1/4” slices (a Cuisinart is nice for this—just cut the stem end off and shoot them, one at a time, down the narrow feed tube, pushing them with the pusher cup to ensure even slices).
4. Coat a large baking sheet with non-stick spray or oil. (This makes clean-up a lot easier.)
5. Toss the carrot slices with olive oil and salt.
6. Spread the carrots out in a single layer on the baking sheets. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until they start to get brown and they are cooked and tender when you stab them with a fork. Check the underside to make sure they aren’t getting too dark on the bottom. You want them golden-brown in spots, but not too dark.



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