Saving carrots from their usual sugary Easter fate

Associated PressApril 16, 2014 

Instead of serving glazed carrots for your Easter meal, try peeling them into long fettuccine-like strands for this unique pasta dish. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Though carrots often make it into the Easter feast lineup, I've never understood why. Maybe it's a nod to the Easter bunny.

Typically, we prepare them much as we prepare sweet potatoes (their distant orange cousins) at Thanksgiving -- by glazing them and otherwise shoveling on extra sugar. On the plate, carrots are more like a candy than a vegetable.

Still, I like carrots and I think I've figured out a way here to redeem them. The trick is not to be waylaid by their color, but to take advantage of their length and texture. Long, sturdy carrot peels are reminiscent of individual strands of fettuccine. Fine. Let's prepare them as we would, say, a dish of fettuccine Alfredo -- by dressing them with a creamy sauce.

Not coincidentally, it's a strategy that also allows the carrot's natural sugars -- which are plenty sweet all by themselves -- to shine.

You'll want to start with big, long, fat carrots. Just peel off and discard the outermost layer, then continue peeling on all sides until you've reached the woody core. I find it easiest to start at the middle of the carrot and peel down the bottom half, then flip it over and peel the top half. This technique allows you to do the job faster than if you peeled the entire length of the carrot from top to bottom.

The carrot fettuccine strands cook up very quickly -- inside of 5 minutes -- so you'll want to prep them ahead of time, and measure out all the rest of the ingredients as well. Once the fettuccine is cooked, you need to move it out of the pan and onto everyone's plate before the strands go soft.

LEMONY CARROT "FETTUCCINE" WITH TOASTED WALNUTS

Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 pounds large carrots, peeled, stem ends discarded

1-1/4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Salt and ground black pepper

2 ounces Neufchatel (low-fat cream cheese)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a shallow baking dish, spread the walnuts in an even layer and bake on the oven's middle shelf for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they smell fragrant. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, using a swivel blade or a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into long fettuccine-like strands, discarding the core (or saving it for a snack or a stock).

In a large skillet, combine 1 cup of the chicken broth with the lemon zest, a hefty pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper. Whisk the mixture until the lemon is well distributed.

Cut up the cheese into small pieces and add it to the skillet along with the carrots. Cover the skillet tightly and bring the broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the carrots, covered, for 3 minutes. Remove the lid, and stir the carrots gently with tongs to make sure the cheese is well distributed. Cover and simmer, adding the additional broth if the mixture seems dry, for another 1 to 2 minutes, or just until the carrots are tender.

Stir in the lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper. Divide the carrot "fettuccine" between 4 serving plates, then top each portion with a quarter of the toasted walnuts and the chives.

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