Monday, February 23, 2015

From the Top: Carrot Top Pesto

I had just bought a lovely bunch of organic carrots—slender, crisp, and everything carrots should be—when I noticed that the tops were just as lovely and delicate as the bottoms. I knew I had to trim them off before storing the carrots, but I couldn't bear to compost them or toss them outside for the critters to enjoy. However...I vaguely remembered reading that carrot tops were poisonous. Eek! But even though this was alarming, I wasn't quite ready to give up on keeping them for myself. I searched online and found that (phew) this had been a misconception a few years back, and that it's now agreed the tops are not only suitable for human consumption, but provide a number of vitamins and minerals as well.

I wanted to make a carrot top pesto, and had already washed, prepped, and stuffed the greens into my blender. Then I poured in the olive oil only to find there was just a splash left in the bottom of the bottle—and I didn't have any more in the house. Then I looked around and realized the only lemons I had for juice were safely tucked away in the freezer...after which I just plain forgot I had walnuts in the fridge. This was not going well! But I couldn't stop now, so I poured in some red wine vinegar for acid, added a small handful of pistachios I had taken out for a snack, and blended away. The result was not what I had intended, but nevertheless a tangy, vibrant sauce I could enjoy drizzled into soups and stews, as a condiment to chicken, fish and meat, or stirred into sour cream for a quick and easy dip. So even though the practice run turned out fine in the end, next time I will be better prepared and take it from the top, like this:

Carrot Top Pesto Sauce

Carrot Top Pesto

1 1/2 - 2 cups packed carrot tops (trim tops a few inches from the carrots, coarsely chop, rinse clean, then measure)
1/4 - 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup walnuts
Salt and pepper

Blend tops with oil, juice and nuts until mostly pureed, taste and adjust with more oil/lemon juice if needed, and salt and pepper, if desired. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze in ice cube trays, pop out and store in a resealable bag in the freezer for up to three months.

Notes: This is more like the French persillade, without the garlic (which you could certainly add). As mentioned above, these were organic carrot tops—I wouldn't want to try this with conventional carrots!


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