Carrot, the Comeback Kid.

[Leaf Parade. Roasted carrot junk salad.]

Roasted carrot Junk Salad with edamame, goat cheese, and quinoa {vegetarian, gluten-free}.

When we lived in our little brown house on Monticello Drive, we had a family vegetable garden. I didn’t realize it then, but now I know that it was amazing. I suppose it was your standard spread, but everything grew big and in abundance: buckets of round, ruby-red cherry tomatoes, zucchini the size of baseball bats, a parade of curly-toed string beans, and so many fuzzy-flowered summer squash that we had to start giving them away.

We also grew carrots, which were… less successful. I remember impatiently pulling them up from under the soil — always with disappointment. No matter the size or volume of its bright green plume announcing itself to the summer sunshine, the carrot hidden below was always a wimpy, weak little thing. (There’s a joke somewhere in here, isn’t there?) With penitence, I would tuck these artless carrots back into the soil when I was sure that my parents weren’t looking.

[Leaf Parade. Roasted carrot junk salad.]

To me, a child who spent a lot of time in the vegetable garden, secretly feasting, I began to feel a certain way about carrots. They didn’t do for me what the other crops did — namely, they did not feed me. Hmmph. You could say that I was unimpressed — and a little bit annoyed — with carrots. Those feelings persevered long after my father discontinued his annual tilling of the vegetable patch, persevered even after we packed up the house and moved on to another one. Yes, my early-adulthood apathy towards the titian-toned taproot was certainly fueled by these moments in the vegetable garden. (I should note that when I found out where baby carrots come from [seriously, WTF?], these negative sentiments abounded.)  I took to skipping over them at salad bars, pushing them around my plate at dinner time, wrinkling my nose, rolling my eyes. I know, I know: Carrots are nature’s sweet treat, they’re good for me, something something something about beta carotene and vitamin A, and aren’t they supposed to make my hair curly too? But beyond all that — what’s really so great about a carrot?

Well, pull up a chair.

[Leaf Parade. Roasted carrot junk salad.]

It’s its symbiotic relationship with a tub of hummus. The way in which it divinely croons when you mix it with flour, egg, and cinnamon and then crown it in sweet tufts of cream cheese. It’s the lovely spicy-sweetness it collects when slow-simmered in a Moroccan stew. And, finally, it’s its simple excellence when tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then roasted in a very hot oven.

[Leaf Parade. Roasted carrot junk salad.]

Despite their weak testimony in my early life, I’ve come to fully realize that carrots are actually pretty fabulous (not to mention pretty cheap). So buy a whole bunch of them and do this to them. Right now. Go on.

[Leaf Parade. Roasted carrot junk salad.]

This is what I call a Junk Salad. I promise that there will be more of these to come, as this is the way I most frequently eat: A really big bowl, lots of green leaves, and a whole bunch of junk piled and drizzled on top. I like to get most of the components together ahead of time and then combine them all on a whim. (Do not be fooled — this is just me pretending to be spontaneous whilst actually being totally Type A.) So go ahead and find your biggest salad bowl  mixing bowl and join me as I salute Carrot, the Comeback Kid.

[Leaf Parade. Roasted carrot junk salad.]

—–

Roasted carrot Junk Salad with edamame, goat cheese, and quinoa {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 16 ounces edamame, boiled, de-shelled, and cooled
  • 3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

To serve:

  • Your favorite leafy greens
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tahini paste
  • Chia or flax seeds

Method:

  1. First roast the carrots. Scrub them well (no need to peel) and cut them into small pieces. Toss them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and lay them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Put them in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast for 45 minutes or until crispy and brown.
  2. While the carrots are roasting, get your edamame and quinoa going. You can use more or less of these ingredients, depending on your own whim, or substitute them for the bean/legume and grain of your choice.
  3. Let your cooked carrots, edamame, and quinoa cool. Then, combine them in a big bowl with the goat cheese, the lemon, and its zest. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Spoon the Junk Salad onto a pile of your favorite leaves. Drizzle in extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar, dollop with some tahini paste, and sprinkle with a little dusting chia or flax seeds.
  5. Get at that salad.

[Leaf Parade. Roasted carrot junk salad.]

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