09 March 2009

Carrots on the side

Yesterday was one of those days when the weather can't make up its mind. Growing up in Oklahoma, a statement like that would typically be followed up with a damage description. Like the hail damage my mom recently got on her car or my in-law's fence that just blew over onto their neighbor's car.

Here in the Northwest, even when the weather is wacky, it's still typically benign. Last night the television news anchors kept talking about hail. I finally realized they were referring to the sleet-like pellets no bigger than a peppercorn. In my book, you can't call it hail unless it's at least the size of a marble, and don't expect sympathy unless we're talking golf-ball sized.

So, given that we had some sunshine mixed in there, I'd say yesterday was a fair weather day. Especially when you consider that extra hour of daylight, teasing us with the long, warm days yet to come. It was reason enough for us to pull out the Weber grill for dinner. We grilled turkey burgers and carrot sticks. I often cook oven fries to go with burgers, but since we'd tried Burgerville's Rosemary Shoestring Fries earlier in the day, we decided to go a bit healthier for dinner.

Carrots are something I've always got in the fridge. They keep longer than most veggies, are available year-round, and they are so versatile, they can easily go from appetizer to side dish to main. I didn't care for carrots as a kid, but that was because I mostly ate them raw. I still don't care for them raw, but wow, a little heat does a carrot good. My go-to side dish is to roast or grill carrot sticks tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper. The dish is so easy to prepare and it turns a hard, somewhat flavorless veggie into a slightly sweet and salty bite.

Forgo the baby carrot sticks, which are wasteful seeing that carrots don't grow in tiny, uniform shapes. Just buy the plain old, dingy orange carrots. It literally takes a few seconds to peel them, and then you can cut them into sticks, on the bias for a nice bite-size pieces or shred them. You can even use your peeler to create beautiful carrot ribbons that are fun in a salad or a long-cut pasta dish. Just as when cooking anything, you'll want to cut them uniformly so they will evenly cook. And when they are done cooking, toss them once more in a bowl with a bit of salt. I bet you'll be surprised just how good a carrot can be. Around here, at least, we didn't miss the fries!

Grilled Carrots Peel and slice carrots into fairly uniform-sized sticks by cutting carrot in half and then either halving or quartering those pieces. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a hot grill, rotating to grill on all sides. Toss once again with salt. Serve warm or room temperature as an appetizer or side dish. Variations: Prepare carrots with same method and cook in a 400 degree oven instead of grill until carrots cooked through and slightly caramelized. Add dried herbs or minced garlic to olive oil for flavor variations.

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