The idea of heading down to the root cellar to grab ingredients for dinner may seem foreign these days, yet during the time of the American settlers it was common practice and a vital way to store food to prolong their vitality.
Various vegetables, including potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, parsnips, etc., were placed in the root cellar in the autumn after harvesting to keep food from freezing during the winter and prevent roots from spoiling in the summer.
“I still have fall carrots in my fridge from Halsey Farmstand,” says Veg Forward cookbook author Susan Spungen. “Things last if you know how to store them.”
And while root cellars are unlikely to return anytime soon thanks to refrigeration, the mighty carrot is still an easy-to-procure, abundant veg option any time of year. Getting creative with root vegetables also has limits, even for kitchen professionals. Anna Rendon, a personal chef with a range of clients from the eastern shores of the Chesapeake Bay to Long Island, knows this all too well. “Whatever season you’re in drives the dishes to offer,” she explains, “ideally, you want to support using locally grown ingredients, especially for the flavor.”
Luckily for us Southforkers, we can get the guaranteed, best-tasting carrots by joining an off-season winter CSA. Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett offers a share that runs bi-weekly through the end of February and includes root vegetables, autumn greens, and salad mixes from their hoop houses.
Even better, they use sliding-scale pricing, making their CSA accessible to our neighbors with fewer resources, which allows them to share their values of land stewardship and fresh, local food with a broader community.
Now comes the creative part: what to do with that bunch of carrots. Rendon suggests this recipe from her catering company, Chiqui Chef, for harissa roasted carrots, full of unique and vibrant flavors plays on the sweetness of the humble root vegetable. Harissa, a north African condiment made predominantly from roasted red peppers, spices and garlic, adds a slightly smoky, slightly spicy element to the dish that totally works. “I enjoy planning and preparing excellent Mediterranean-Middle Eastern dinners for my clients,” says Rendon, “this is one of my most popular side dishes that is excellent with lamb or braised chicken. There is warmth, spice, and citrus that just ties it all together so beautifully.”
Southforker tips: Cut the time in half by cooking the carrots in a foil or parchment-lined air fryer. Preheat to 375-degree and toss every 7 minutes until the carrots are roasted and fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Do you need a vegetarian option for chicken wings on game day? Platter up with the labneh and a hot honey drizzle in a separate bowl for a sweet and spicy treat. Don’t you dare throw away those carrot top greens! Chop ‘em up finely and use them for garnish.
Chef Anna Rendon’s harissa roasted carrots
- 2 lbs medium carrots, ends trimmed, quartered lengthwise and cut into 3-inch segments
- 1/2 cup Labneh (or GreekYogurt)
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta
- 2 tbsp harissa paste (or 1 tbsp of harissa powder)
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp honey (or maple syrup)
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro or mint leaves
- kosher salt