Archive for June 15th, 2012

no pain, no gain

I read recipes at the gym. While the shocking part of that sentence is the part about going to the gym, I’d prefer to talk about the recipes. You probably would too.

It started innocently enough. Two weeks ago, I stuffed the most recent Saveur in my gym bag when I couldn’t find a New Yorker – my up-until-then preferred gym reading material. Trotting on the elliptical, I contemplated opening my own food truck. In between stretches, I dreamt of eating my way down Route 7 in France from Paris to Menton.

Last week, I graduated to cookbooks. I started with Melissa Clark‘s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. I had bought the book weeks before after making Clark’s tomato tarte tatin recipe. But when the box arrived and I ripped open the shrink wrap, my heart sank: there were no pictures. Not even a few glossy pages in the middle. Had I read the reviews, I would have know that. But I ordered it on faith with one too-easy click of the buy button. I placed it back in the box and tried to figure out who might soon be receiving it as a gift.

The book taunted me from its lonely cardboard home, its spine not so much as cracked, its pages not dog-eared and splattered. It begged to be read. And, having avoided the gym for days with the excuse of nothing good to read, I lugged this 1-pound 14-ounce 444-page hardcover cookbook to the gym. I figured it would keep me company while pedaling and tone my biceps as I lifted it on and off the bike.

The spinning spun by quickly. Until I nearly fell off of my bike laughing when I read, “Every Thanksgiving when I was a kid, my uncle Danny used to say, ‘I like my turkeys built like Jane Fonda, with small [*$*#] and a big [@##].'”

Steadying myself and finishing my workout, I found dinner.

As you can probably tell by the photos, I roasted carrots. I’m not going to suggest that anyone eat just than a big bowl of carrots for dinner, but if you were to eat carrots – and carrots alone – for dinner, these are the carrots to eat.

Here’s what Clark writes about roasting vegetables:

You can roast almost anything to delectable results. Just take whatever it is you want to eat, toss it with loads of olive oil and more salt than you think you need, and put it in a low-sided pan in a hot oven. While you unload the dishwasher or mash some garlic for a vinaigrette, your dinner will soften on the inside and caramelize on the surface, taking on that characteristic roasted, sweet flavor. It will condense and deepen in the heat, becoming more intensely itself in taste. Beets get beetier, broccoli gets broccolier.

Under her tutelage, my own dinner of carrots got carrotier. As directed, I roasted the carrots with a smidge of red pepper and let them shrink and shrivel to the essence of their carrot-ness. Minutes before they were ready, she upped the ante by adding a drizzle of thick dark pomegranate molasses (syrup).  The pomegranate sugars caramelized and intensified the already carrotier carrots’ natural sweetness.

As I raised one of these orange beauties to my mouth, a drop of still-hot pomegranate caramel burned my skin. No pain, no gain, right?  It sure seemed worth it for these carrotiest carrots of all.

And with that adage, I’ll be dragging my own Jane Fonda @## back to the gym to finish up the book.

Pomegranate roasted carrots

It’s hard to actually call this a recipe – instead I’ve provided guidelines and very approximate measurements for a single serving – a decent-sized bowlful – of carrots. I modified it from Melissa Clark‘s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. These carrots call for a few specialty Middle Eastern ingredients, and I’ve provided some easier-to-find alternatives. First we have pomegranate molasses, also called pomegranate syrup — is a very concentrated pomegranate juice Without any added sugar, it has a natural sweetness combined with a puckering tartness. You can make your own by boiling down pomegranate juice until very dark, thick, and able to coat the back of a spoon. In a pinch, you could also use balsamic vinegar either as is or boiled down to a thicker concentrate as well.  If you do buy some pomegranate molasses or make your own, try it out in these other recipes: tomato tarte tatin, lahmajun-style meat sauce, and spoon lamb.  The other specialty ingredient is aleppo pepper. This is a mild Syrian pepper that looks a little like red pepper flakes; if you can’t find any, substitute a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Another tip – to avoid having to scrub caramelized pomegranate off of your cookie sheet, roast the carrots on a sheet of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) – you’ll thank me later.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Peel 6-8 carrots, cut them in half width-wise and then in half or quarters lengthwise depending on how thick the carrots are. Try to make them all approximately the same size. Scatter the carrots on the parchment, drizzle with 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil, 2 pinches of salt, a good grind of pepper, and a pinch of aleppo (or cayenne) pepper. Shake the pan to make sure that the carrots are evenly coated with the oil and spices and then spread them out in a single layer.

Roast the carrots for approximately 30 minutes total, with a few quick interruptions. After the first 15 minutes, shake the tray around (or just use a fork) again to stir the carrots so they’ll evenly roast. Ten minutes later, drizzle the carrots with 1-2 teaspoons of pomegranate molasses (or more to taste – the more molasses, the stickier/sweeter/tarter the carrots will be), and shake the tray around again to mix. Throw them back in the oven for the last five minutes. The carrots are ready when they’re slightly shriveled, soft but not mushy, and covered in a golden glaze of pomegranate.

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