Recently I planned to spend the evening dining out at local fave Dolce Vita to celebrate a friend’s birthday. But then, in a rash decision inspired by both the economy (dining out is so expensive) and the desire for a relaxed, festive celebration I found myself hostess for a dinner party for nine. The only challenge: dinner was to commence in less than six hours!
Thank God for good friends, especially those with incredible talents! L came to the rescue with an offer to “whip up” what turned out to be a fantastic mushroom lasagna, guests brought perfect breads from the bakery and a variety of wines, especially Italian, to complement the meal. The only thing still needed was a couple of side dishes to round out the evening. And, of course, L’s neighborhood famous cupcakes. (Simple but perfect chocolate with buttercream icing on this chilly Friday evening.)
As our impromptu dinner party was centered around a traditional Italian dish, a green salad seemed like a natural choice, as did a starter comprised of a variety of Italian cheeses selected with help from the incredibly knowledgeable cheese guru at Central Market. (Pecorino Toscano, Caciotta di Capra and Asiago Fresco Pressato Monti Trentini – particularly delicious with a little creamy pesto on a cracker).
But we needed something else. Something easy. (Did I mention that I had to get the house ready, table set, flowers arranged, bar set up, etc. in less than six hours? And I was still at the office.) Something healthy. Something warm, delicious and a little surprising.
Then it hit me: gingered baby carrots! We found this wonderful recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website a couple of years ago and love it. And we’d only served it once to guests, namely my parents who were not to join us for the Italian birthday potluck.
This simple dish is a wonderful complement to either a meat or vegetarian entree and is packed with nutritional essentials including vitamins C and E, Thiamin and Potassium. Even more, carrots are a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, K and B6 and Manganese. Good and good for you.
Gingered Baby Carrots
We always buy bunches of small, organic carrots available at Central Market for this dish. But if you can’t find the little ones, peel full sized carrots down to no more than a half inch diameter (at the top, near the greens). A fragrant honey mixes beautifully with the crystalized ginger and mint that make this dish such a delicious smash!
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 lb. small, thin carrots, peeled
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 bunch fresh mint
Preheat an oven to 400°F.
Remove greens from carrots and peel.
Put the butter in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the carrots in a single layer and place in the preheating oven. Watch carefully to prevent burning. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the oven and stir in the honey and crystallized ginger. Add the carrots and stir to coat them evenly. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with 1 1/2 Tbs. of the chopped mint. Stir again, then spread the carrots out in a single layer.
Roast the carrots, stirring 2 or 3 times, until golden, glazed and tender when pierced with a fork, 35 to 45 minutes, sometimes longer depending upon the diameter of the carrot.
Remove the pan from the oven and season the carrots with salt and pepper. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 1/2 tsp. mint and the lemon juice and toss to coat. Make a bed of the mint sprigs on a platter and top with the carrots. Serve immediately. Serves 4.