Taking Root: Found among the tea leaves read by research institutes that forecast and predict future food trends is an emerging pattern of devotion to the plant world.
The blossoming “Leaf to Stem” movement is fast becoming a healthy and ethical choice for personal and planetary health as vegetables gain center-of-the-plate prominence and chefs focus their cooking practices on total utilization of plants in an effort to curb food waste. Further reflecting this trend, for its 30th anniversary the prestigious Bocuse d’Or chef competition’s “dish on a plate” theme for 2017 was designated as 100% vegetal.
Monetary green is also cultivated with the heavy veggie emphasis with the popular "Meatless Mondays" social media campaign, wherein individuals and families strive to make at least one Monday meal completely vegetarian. On this day industry operators recognize the bottom-line benefits of a weekly shift to offering plant-based menu selections, thereby invigorating a typically slow-traffic day.
Plant-based diets have found their place in the mainstream as sustainability concerns and awareness in environmental stewardship grows. The personal health benefits of a vegetable-heavy diet are also obvious. In his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, author Michael Pollan offers a suggestion that we eat "real food, not too much, and mostly plants."
Vegetables have been elevated from a sad over-steamed side dish to top billing status on menus around the country, with creative and talented chefs on a mission to make everyone like their broccoli again! These artists of cuisine are making sure to cover all the territory between root, leaf, peel, stem, and seed to create main-course roasts, braises, fermentations, and condiments to delight the senses.
This hearty and substantial recipe for roasted carrots brings together two other culinary drifts expected to enjoy perennial promise: house made condiments and African flavors. Chermoulas are a North African condiment for vegetables and couscous and can also be used as a marinade--particularly great over fish or poultry--or spooned over crispy fried eggs. It is very versatile and has hundreds of variations, depending on whose Grandma is making it. Many chermoulas are heavy on green herbs, but last summer I had the great pleasure of working with the chef at the Moroccan embassy who made chermoula with saffron and tomato. Each one different and special, allowing for endless riffs and experimentation.
Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Citrus Chermoula
serves 4-6 as a side, with 2 cups total of chermoula; this condiment will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator
1 pound rainbow carrots
1 teaspoon each orange, lemon, and grapefruit zest
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons Harissa chili paste
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons toasted ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
1. For the carrots:
Scrub carrots clean and slice larger carrots in half lengthwise to maintain a mostly uniform thickness. Blanch carrots in boiling water until just tender and then toss them in salt, pepper, and a few drops of olive oil.
Arrange the carrots evenly in a roasting pan and roast the carrots at 400*F until lightly browned and caramelized.
2. For the chermoula:
While carrots are roasting, zest citrus fruits to obtain 1 teaspoon from each fruit, then cut away the peel, including white pith, from fruit. Section the fruit wedges from each and coarsely chop the fruit segments, reserving any juices. Remove any unpalatable white stringy bits.
Combine with the remainder of ingredients, stirring well, and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
3. Once carrots are done, transfer to serving platter and spoon chermoula over top. Serve with extra chermoula, if you have any, for dipping.