I like carrots just fine.
But they are not, generally speaking, all that interesting.
So when I saw Heidi Swanson describe this Uzbeki carrot recipe as exactly that on her website, 101 Cookbooks, I immediately began to pay attention.
The recipe originally comes from Diana Henry’s book, “A Change of Appetite,” and just like Heidi said, it is among the most interesting things I’ve ever seen anyone do with carrots. Somehow, the carrots, tomatoes, spices, herbs, dried fruit and honey all come together, turning one of the most mundane root vegetables into something truly intriguing.
I don’t really know anything about Uzbeki cuisine or even what about it is about this recipe that earns it the moniker, but if it is all as complex and nuanced as these carrots then I definitely want to learn more.
I think the garnishes are really part of what makes these savory-sweet, stewed carrots so good, so don’t skimp on them. A big dollop of yogurt, a handful of fresh herbs and a little crunch from the pistachios make all the difference here.
On the other hand, there is so much going on in this recipe that the saffron doesn’t really take on a very prominent role. If you have some around, by all means use it, but don’t feel like you have to go busting your bank account on such a high-priced spice in order to make these carrots. They’ll be delicious with or without it.
As for how to serve the carrots, I like them with a pile of couscous and a scoop of warm, herby chickpeas, but they were just as good for lunch a few days later with some leftover quinoa and a poached egg. If you’re willing to stray from the classics, I think these would make a fabulous addition to a Thanksgiving menu and I can also imagine them as an unorthodox base to a vegetarian shepherd’s pie.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, I’ve compiled a list of other recipes from the archives that I think are particularly fitting for the holiday, just in case you’re in need of a little last-minute inspiration.
When I looked back through these recipes, I was surprised to find that most of them are both vegan and gluten free, which is always nice for meals when lots of different people, with different diets, come together. Also, they can all (today’s carrots included) be easily made in advance.
Curried Cauliflower Soup (vegan and gluten free)
Make-ahead Vegetarian Gravy (can be made vegan)
Dinner Rolls (not vegan or gluten free, but really, really good)
Cranberry Chutney (vegan and gluten free)
Braised Collards (vegan and gluten free)
The Only Pie Crust Recipe You’ll Ever Need (not even remotely vegan or gluten free)
Honey and Ginger Ice Cream (gluten free)
A fresh take on a vegetable that is easy to take for granted, these savory-sweet carrots would make a lovely Thanksgiving side.
This recipe makes a big pot of carrots, easily enough to serve six or more people as part of a larger spread. Leftovers will keep well in the refrigerator for several days.
- 3 tablespoons clarified butter or olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges (I used a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes)
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 green serrano chiles, seeded and shredded
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and black pepper
- 10 carrots (about 1 1/4 lb.) cut into batons, or thin rounds
- 1/2 cup raisins or dried currants
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron stamens
- 1 1/2 cups water, plus more if needed
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons honey, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon shelled unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
- plain yogurt
- fresh cilantro and/or mint
In a large pot, heat the oil and sauté the onion over medium heat, until golden brown. Add the tomatoes, garlic and chiles and cook for another minute or so. Then add the cinnamon and cumin and cook for a minute more. Add a big pinch of salt, a little pepper and the remaining ingredients and bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. The carrots should be bathed in a tomatoey sauce but not overly soupy. If they seem to dry, add a little more water. If they seem too brothy and wet, crank up the heat and let a bit of the liquid cook off.
Taste the carrots and add more salt or adjust other seasonings, as needed. You're going for something that is a little sweet, a little savory, and with just a warm undercurrent of heat from the chilis.
To serve, top with the pistachios, a generous dollop of yogurt and the fresh herbs.