Creative carrot recipes

Jan 22, 2009 at 6:41 a.m. ET

Carrots are one of those kitchen staples that are easy to eat only a couple of certain ways. Snacking on them fresh or steaming and glazing them are wonderful - but carrots lend themselves to so much more. Breaking out of your carrot comfort zone with creative carrot recipes can yield some new favorites. Carrots are one of the most versatile vegetables around.

Carrot Raisin Muffins

Remember mother's wisdom on carrots?

I remember my mother telling me, "Eat your carrots! They are good for your eyes!" Did your mother say that to you, too? That's because of the tremendous amount of vitamin A available in carrots. The beta carotene (from which common carrots get their lovely orange color) metabolizes into vitamin A in humans, and supports vision. Carrots are also a good source of dietary fiber and antioxidants. (Click for more of the health benefits of orange foods.)

But orange isn't the only color of carrots

While orange carrots are the most common, there are other fun carrot colors - yellow, deep red-orange, purple - and those colors are great fun to grow in the garden with the kids. There are also different shapes of carrots to consider. You could grow a whole garden of just different varieties of carrots.

The many ways to cook carrots

There are so many different ways to enjoy carrots, from savory to sweet. There's carrot juice and carrot cake, and they make an excellent addition when shredded carrot is added to potato latkes. Carrots are a foundation ingredient for many soups (along with onions and celery), and are just as good fried as they are steamed. You can even make salsa and marmalade - just about anything, really. Experimentation is in order!

And just to show how really versatile carrots are, some cosmetics preparations use carrot seed oil and you can even carve musical instruments from a carrot - but we won't do anything with that here.

Creative carrot recipes

These recipes are just a jumping off point for a new appreciation of carrots. Enjoy!

Carrot Hummus

Makes about 5 cups

1-1/4 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into regular pieces
2 cans (15-1/2 ounces each) garbanzo beans, drained
2/3 cup tahini
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2/3 cup lemon juice, preferably fresh
Kosher salt

Steam the carrots until they are soft and you can mash them with a fork. In a food processor, combine cooked carrots, garbanzo beans, tahini and lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Add salt to taste. Cover and chill up to one day to let the flavors develop. Serve withe crackers, pieces of pita bread, or crudites.

Cream of Carrot Soup

Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons butter
2 onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
3 pounds of carrots, peeled and cut into regularly sized pieces
6 cups vegetable broth
Kosher salt
White pepper
1 cup half-and-half
Freshly grated nutmeg

1. In a large pot over medium high heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and thyme and saute until the onions are translucent.

2. Add the carrots to the pot and saute for a minute or two. Add the broth, lower the heat, cover and let simmer until the carrots are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Using a hand blender, or working in batches with a standing blender or food processor, puree the mixture. Return to the pot, add the half-and-half and reheat gently. Add nutmeg to taste - it looks nice grated on top as a garnish.

Carrots with Saffron and Garlic

Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons butter
3 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced thinly on the diagonal
Pinch of saffron threads
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
Salt and pepper
Lemon zest
1 cup water

Melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, saffron and garlic and saute for about a minute. Season with salt and pepper and some lemon zest. Add the water, cover, reduce the heat and cook about 5 minutes, until the carrots are tender.

Curry-glazed Carrots

Serves 4

1 teaspoon curry powder
1-1/4 pounds baby carrots
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley

1. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, stir the curry powder for about a minute or so, until it smells a little toasted. Add carrots, orange peel, orange juice and maple syrup to the pan. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Mix the cornstarch with the water. Pour it into the pan, increase the heat and bring the liquid back to a boil. The sauce should thicken. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with parsley.

More creative carrot recipes

Easy Carrot Raisin Muffins
Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup
Pan Poached Halibut with Porcini, Carrots, and Asparagus