This story originally ran in December of 2016, but we loved it so much we brought it back.
Food doesn’t have to be complicated to be great, and food makers don’t have to follow rules to kill the game. That’s the philosophy behind LA hotspot Botanica. We first met Heather Sperling and Emily Fiffer, when we invited them to teach this workshop with TCM and Jenni Kayne. The ladies are proving that when it comes to healthy eating, color, flavor and good feels can still take priority — and if their recipes prove anything, it’s that they’ve got that formula right.
Below, Heather and Emily share four carrot recipes that’ll fancy up the humble veggie and provide a seriously delicious solution to reducing waste in the kitchen. Our fave is a bright and flavorful pesto that recycles those carrot tops in a way you may not have considered before, but check out the moroccan salad, roasted roots and spicy soup too!
Carrots 4 Ways According to Botanica
Moroccan Carrot Salad | Hands down, this is one of the best dinner party dishes in our arsenal. It comes together in a snap and can be easily adapted if you don’t have everything on hand. As Stefon would say, this salad has everything: color, crunch and chew; tart, sweet and saline. It’s light enough to serve as an appetizer and stands on its own as a main. Baharat is a Middle Eastern spice blend that takes a variety of forms depending on its origins. Most of the time it includes a combination of black pepper, coriander, cumin and a mishmash of warming spices (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice). If you have a full spice drawer, it’s worth making yourself a batch. In a pinch? We’ve got suggestions for substitutions below.
Roasted Carrots with Hazelnuts and Chermoula | The thing about carrots is that the possibilities are endless when it comes to creative combinations. This dead-simple recipe comes together quickly and is excellent for entertaining (you can easily scale it up or down). Bonus points for being pretty as can be on a plate. Chermoula is an herbacious green sauce with African roots (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria) and a weird and wild flavor profile. It adds spice, brightness and depth to roasted veg, fish and meat, and does especially wonderful things to carrots, whose sweetness is only enhanced by chermoula’s complexity. This dish is flexible and bends to your needs: Serve it as is to kick off your meal, or nestle the carrots in a bed of hearty, lemony grains for a vegan main event.
Spiced Tomato, Coconut and Carrot Soup with Lemon-Cilantro OiL | There are few better feelings than opening your fridge after a long day, ravenous, only to remember, “Hell yes! I have soup!” This one in particular screams comfort. Part-Indian, part-Middle Eastern, 100% healthful, it comes together in just about 30 minutes. Best of all, it takes serious advantage of your pantry. Do like we do and make a giant vat for the week. We promise you won’t be sorry. Though it’s delicious on its own, the cilantro-lemon oil is what takes this soup over the top — we highly recommend it. Have leftover cilantro-lemon oil on hand? Don’t let it go to waste: Drizzle on roasted vegetables, fried eggs or fish; thin with olive oil and boom! It’s vinaigrette; stir through yogurt for a delicious dip; or toss with cooked grains for an added layer of flavor.
Carrot Top Pesto | This pesto bucks tradition in every way. It’s free of cheese and pine nuts, with nary a basil leaf in sight. And yet: It’s still pesto, and it’s undeniably delicious. The best part? Carrot tops don’t cost a thing (simply ask a farmer at your market and they’ll oblige) and are sustainable (they ordinarily get chucked). The serving possibilities are endless — just add more or less olive oil, depending on what result you’re going for. Thinner, more drizzly versions are great for tossing with zucchini noodles; thicker iterations can serve as a dip or tartine spread. Note: The quality of your nuts really matters here. Get the best you can find — you want them to shine!
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Makes 10-12 appetizer-sized servings
8 cups (loose) shredded purple and orange carrots
2 cups chopped cilantro and parsley (any mix will do!)
1 cup chiffonaded mint
1 cup scallions cut on the bias, greens included
1 cup cooked red quinoa
¾ cup toasted pistachios
1 cup ruby dates (small, harder variety – but use what you have!)
1 cup mandarinquats, sliced on a mandoline
¼ cup kumquats, sliced on a mandoline
For the vinaigrette:
1 tsp baharat
Juice of 4 lemons
Juice of 1 orange
1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
lots of olive oil to emulsify (about 1½ cups)
pistachios: use another toasted nut, like almonds or walnuts
dates: use currants or figs
mint: use basil
baharat: use equal parts black pepper, coriander and cinnamon
mandarinquats: more kumquats plus some orange segments (mandarinquats are larger and sweeter than a kumquat, and smaller than a mandarin)
Toss salad ingredients. Mix dressing ingredients. Drizzle and serve.
Roasted Carrots with Hazelnuts and Chermoula
Makes 4 appetizer-sized servings of carrots and 1 cup chermoula
For the carrots:
2 bunches carrots (multi-colored, if available), tops removed except for a few inches of stem
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ cup olive oil
⅓ cup toasted hazelnuts
zest and juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and black pepper
For the chermoula:
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp chopped ginger
2 Tbsp whole lemon
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 jalapeno (remove seeds to keep it mild; keep ‘em in for extra spice!)
¼ cup water
¼ tsp sweet paprika (sub smoked if that’s what you have)
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
1 packed cup chopped cilantro (leaves and stems)
1 packed cup chopped parsley (leaves and stems)
½ cup olive oil
pinch of sea salt
Preheat your oven to 425°F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and add the carrots.
In a small bowl, mix the coriander, cumin and olive oil. Pour the mixture over the carrots and toss well with your hands, making sure the carrots are well-coated. (Even oil distribution is the secret to uniformly caramelized vegetables! Use those hands. That’s why soap was invented!) Sprinkle liberally with salt.
Roast the carrots until they’re browned and you can pierce them with a fork, about 35 minutes.
While the carrots rest, make the chermoula by tossing everything in your blender and blending on high until the mixture is silky. Thin a bit with olive oil or water if need be (it should be thicker than a vinaigrette yet easy to drizzle). The sauce will keep in your refrigerator for about 5 days, but bear in mind it’ll brown a bit as time goes by.
Arrange the carrots on a shallow serving tray, sprinkle with hazelnuts, and spoon chermoula generously over the top. Season with the lemon juice, zest, sea salt and pepper.
Spiced Tomato, Coconut and Carrot Soup with Lemon-Cilantro Oil
Makes 8 cups
For the soup:
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 leeks, cleaned, light green parts thinly sliced (reserve tough green stalks for stock)
1 yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed and rough-chopped
lots of salt!
1 28 oz can whole Roma tomatoes
about 5 large carrots, washed (no need to peel) and cut into thick nubs
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 coconut milk can-full of vegetable broth (homemade, if possible) or water
lots of sea salt
unsweetened coconut flakes, to garnish
urfa biber chile, to garnish
For the cilantro-lemon oil:
1 bunch cilantro, chopped, stems and all
1 whole lemon, quartered and de-seeded
about 1 cup olive oil
Heat the olive oil to medium in a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it starts to shimmer, add the cumin and coriander, coat well, and stir for about a minute, until everything is toasty and fragrant.
Add the leeks, onion, garlic and a healthy pinch of salt and stir. Sweat the leeks and onions, stirring frequently, until they’re translucent. Add the tomatoes and crush with the back of your spoon, then add the carrots, coconut milk and broth or water. Simmer on medium heat, covered, until you can stick a fork through a carrot, about 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make your cilantro-lemon oil by adding everything into a blender and blending on high until thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust for seasoning and set aside. Rinse your blender! You’re going to need it for soup.
When the soup is ready, transfer it from the stockpot to the blender and blend on high until everything is creamy and incorporated (alternately, use an immersion blender). Taste and adjust for seasoning (the cilantro oil brings acidity and the pepper gives spice and depth, so no need to go crazy).
To serve, drizzle a few healthy spoonfuls of cilantro-lemon oil, a solid sprinkle of urfa biber chile and a few coconut chips.
Carrot Top Pesto
Makes 1½ cups
½ cup delicious almonds
1 Tbsp ghee (sub olive oil if you’d rather)
heaping 2 cups carrot tops
juice from a lemon or two
2 garlic cloves, smashed
salt and fresh pepper
Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the almonds with 1 tablespoon of ghee or olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and roast until they smell amazing (about 12 minutes). Set aside to cool thoroughly.
When almonds have cooled, add them to a food processor with the carrot tops, juice of one lemon and garlic. Whizz, scraping down the sides as necessary, until well incorporated. With the motor running, slowly stream in the olive oil until you reach your desired consistency (keep in mind it’ll thicken a bit as it cools).
Season with salt and pepper, whizz again and taste. We usually add the juice of a second lemon at this point.
I’m really disappointed with, “The best part? Carrot tops don’t cost a thing (simply ask a farmer at your market and they’ll oblige) and are sustainable (they ordinarily get chucked).” Even if most farmers’ market carrots weren’t sold in bunches with the tops still attached, it’s irresponsible to direct readers to ask farmers for “scrap” produce. If you want carrot tops for pesto, buy carrots with the fluffiest tops. If you want to make salad with radish leaves, buy the bunch with the greenest leaves. If you want those parts but can’t find them, try another vendor, ask the farmer if they have any they would include WITH your purchase (or that you can buy separately!), or see if they can leave some intact next week. Regardless of what the implication of that sentence was intended to be, it perpetuates the idea that farmers owe you something and ignores the fact that their presence at a market costs them significantly in terms of time and actual money. Even if the assumption is correct and those tops really are not intended for consumption, no one is “chucking” them, they’re going in a compost heap where they play a critical role in the future health of the soil. Farmers work hard and do not make nearly what they deserve for that hard work. They are under no obligation to hand out food for free, to say otherwise is naive.
nice, thank you for all of these, and carrot top pesto, wow, never knew of any such possibilities with carrots!