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Lynda Balslev: Carrots rule


Carrots are the boss of this salad. Available year-round, carrots are a salad staple, and their flavor varies depending on the season. Summer carrots are fresh, bright and grassy. They bridge springtime’s baby carrots, which are more vegetal and earthy, and the fall season’s mature, sugar-packed and woodier carrots.

Roasting summer carrots coaxes out their natural sugars, amplifying their sweetness and lemony flavor. Heirloom carrots bring a riot of color to the plate and contribute their subtle flavor nuances, elevating the carrot presence beyond one-note. Red carrots are the most similar in flavor to orange carrots, while white carrots are very sweet. Purple carrots are the show-stoppers: They are sweet, slightly peppery, and their purple exterior hides a vibrant orange interior.

Carrots are delicious accompanied by fresh and frilly summery herbs, such as dill, cilantro and chervil. Any of these herbs can be used in this salad, and you can mix them up to your taste. In this recipe, there is an equal mix of dill and cilantro. As for the grains, sauteed Israeli or pearl couscous adds a wonderful toasty, nutty flavor to the salad. Other grains can be used as well, including farro, freekeh or bulgur.

Roasted Carrot and Couscous Salad

Active Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous

1 cup water

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus more for garnish

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes

2 bunches thin rainbow carrots, about 1 pound

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup packed mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, cilantro or chervil

1/2 lemon, plus wedges for serving

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the couscous and toast until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water (it will sizzle and steam), lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat until the couscous is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the couscous to a bowl and stir in the garlic, cumin, lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Cool to room temperature.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Trim the ends of the carrots and peel. If thick, halve lengthwise. Place the carrots in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss to coat. Spread the carrots on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until lightly charred and crisp-tender, about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the carrots. Remove and cool to room temperature.

Mix half of the herbs into the cooled couscous. Divide between serving plates. Arrange the carrots over the couscous. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs and lemon zest.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

Available year-round, carrots are a salad staple, and their flavor varies depending on the season. Summer carrots are fresh, bright and grassy.
Photo by Lynda Balslev

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