We’re all taught when we're kids not to play with our food, right? But those rules no longer apply. Playing with food in the kitchen is one of the most pleasurable activities I know. There’s playing with different ingredients, playing with flavor combinations and playing with fire, just to name a few.
This week’s farm share delivered the first carrots of the season. After eating a few raw to enjoy their sweet, earthy flavor, I decided to play with the vegetable by preparing it three different ways in one dish. For extra fun, I added the carrot tops, in two ways, too. I paired the carrots with seared sea scallops, making a tasty play of land and sea.
In this dish, carrots are blended into a silky smooth puree, roasted to bring out their sweetness and pickled for a bright burst of acid. The carrot tops are fried, for texture, and their flavor is concentrated in an oil.
This dish is a little more complicated (but not fussy) than some of my recent posts but worth the extra effort. Just remember: it’s OK to play with your food and have fun in the kitchen.
Scallops with Carrots
For the pickled baby carrots
Pickles adapted from Foodista
Handful baby carrots, sliced thin
2 tsp salt
½ cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Massage carrots with the salt. Place in a heatproof dish or mason jar.
2. In a small saucepan, combine rice wine vinegar and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Pour over carrots. Let marinate at least an hour, or overnight.
For the roasted carrots
1 bunch baby carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Toss carrots with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.
3. Roast until golden and just tender, 20-30 minutes.
4. Toss with butter and honey.
For the carrot puree
1 bunch carrots, about 1 pound
1 tablespoon butter
Extra virgin olive oil
Rice wine vinegar
1. Place carrots in a saucepan and cover with water. Add butter, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil then simmer until carrots are very tender.
2. Puree carrots with some of their cooking liquid, adding liquid as needed to get a loose consistency (should be looser than soup). With the motor running, drizzle in a little olive oil and a small splash of vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the carrot top oil
1 bunch carrot tops, stemmed (reserve a couple of tops for the friend tops, below)
½ bunch parsley, stemmed
1 cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed
1. Blanch carrot tops and parsley leaves in boiling salted water, about 30 seconds. Shock in an ice bath, then drain well, squeezing out excess moisture.
2. Blend greens and oil in a blender until very smooth.
3. Strain oil through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Place in a squeeze bottle if you’re feeling fancy.
For the fried carrot tops
Couple of carrot tops, large stems removed
Oil for frying
1. Heat oil to 325 degrees.
2. Fry carrot tops briefly until just crisp but still green. (Tops will turn brown if you leave them too long.)
3. Drain on paper towel-lined plate and season with salt.
For the seared scallops
1. Dry scallops with a paper towel, season with salt.
2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil (it should coat the pan generously).
3. Cook scallops until golden and caramelized on the bottom. Flip and repeat. Serve immediately.