Q. Can you tell me more about carrots? They are a staple in my house, but I feel like we never use them for anything.
A. Carrots. This root vegetable isn’t just for wily rabbits. It has a sweet, earthy taste that complements many dishes and provides plenty of health benefits. Brimming with nutrients, carrots are especially rich in beta carotene, a type of antioxidant. When ingested, beta carotene converts to vitamin A, which is essential for skin and eye health, as well as a strong immune system.
Shop for bunches with green tops attached. Ideal tops are bright green and lively, while the carrot should be firm, bright orange and smooth — no deep cracks or splits. If buying packaged carrots, check that they are plump, firm and fresh. Carrots with a deep, orange pigment contain more beta carotene.
To store, snip the greens 1-2 inches from the top of the carrot before storing. Place carrots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
To prepare, peel off a thin layer of skin on mature carrots. For older carrots with a hard, fibrous core, remove it by cutting the carrot lengthwise, then cut along each side of the core.
Carrots can be eaten in a variety of ways. Eat carrots raw by cutting into julienne strips (think shoe strings or french fry-shape) for a quick salad topper, or cut lengthwise to serve with hummus for a simple, healthful snack. Get your saute pan out for a tasty side dish. Cut carrots into coins and place in a medium saucepan with butter and olive oil. Cook on medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Another family-favorite way to prepare carrots is to roast in the oven. Place 3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into thirds, on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a 425 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Pro tip: If buying carrots with the greens still attached, don’t discard them when you use the carrots. Carrot greens can be made into a chimichurri sauce by blending with olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and fresh oregano. Serve over fish, steak, or chicken.