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 carrots the same way we prepare sweet potatoes (their distant orange cousins) at Thanksgiving - by glazing them and otherwise shoveling on extra sugar.
But I think I've figured out a way to redeem them. The trick is to take advantage of their length and texture. Long, sturdy carrot peels are reminiscent of individual strands of fettuccine, so 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 to shine.
Start with big, long, fat carrots (affectionately referred to by some grocers as "horse carrots"). 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 cores are too thin and hard to peel. Munch on them or reserve them for a future stock.
The sauce for this "fettuccine" is quite simple. It's based on Neufchatel, the French cream cheese that provides the creaminess we crave yet has one-third less fat than most other types of cream cheese.
The carrot's natural sweetness is counterbalanced with lemon, both the zest and juice, though lime would work just as well. Walnuts add crunch, a nutty taste and some nutrition.
The carrot fettuccine strands cook up very quickly - inside of five minutes - so prep them ahead of time and measure out all the rest of the ingredients. Once the strands are cooked, move them out of the pan and onto plates before they go soft.
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LEMONY CARROT "FETTUCCINE" WITH TOASTED WALNUTS
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 fettuccinelike 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 carrots are tender.
Stir in lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper. Divide carrot "fettuccine" among four serving plates, then top each with a quarter of the toasted walnuts and chives.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 200 calories (120 calories from fat, 60 percent of total calories); 13g fat (3g saturated, 0g trans fats); 10mg cholesterol; 18g carbohydrates; 6g fiber; 12g sugar; 7g protein; 330mg sodium.
Source: Sara Moulton