Summary: Recently, my husband and I were in NYC and for lunch dined at Gramercy Tavern. I had a glass of vespaiolo, an Italian white from the Veneto, we shared a warm lobster and potato salad to start and for my main I ordered the grilled carrots with quinoa, pistachios and cremant, a delicious little cheese from Vermont. The uniqueness of the latter dish really made an impression on me, and I’ve been meaning to try and recreate it since we returned home.
At the farmers market this past weekend, I picked up some gorgeous young carrots. This evening in my pantry I saw some red quinoa. And it was off to the races of re-creation. I’d forgotten both that Gramercy’s carrots were grilled and that pistachios were involved in the dish; funny enough, I spur-of-the-moment added a handful of the beautiful green nuts, lightly crushed, to my dish tonight. Must have been a sense-memory.
And I went with a gentle roast of the carrots because I wanted to concentrate the flavor but retain a definite need for a knife. Gramercy’s carrots had the most delightful shellacking of honey so I started with a combo of olive oil and orange blossom honey for my cooking glaze. In addition, I added the zest of a half orange, a generous sprinkle of kosher salt and some white pepper. Nearly a half hour in the oven, and you could just easily pierce them partway through with a knife: done! In the meantime, I’d cooked the red quinoa in some vegetable broth, letting it steam off heat towards the end. Currently, I find myself obsessed with fresh thyme so made a garlic-olive oil-thyme pistou to drizzle over the finished dish and then considered the pistachios.
Lastly, Gramercy’s quinoa had a wonderful risotto-like creaminess and so to mimic that, I whisked some crème fraîche with the cooking liquid left in the pan and then stirred that into my steamed baby Saturns (have you noticed just how much cooked quinoa resembles a bunch of ringed planets?!). Even T, skeptical vegetarian he is forced to be on Mondays, truly enjoyed this dish.
Yield: serves 4
- 1 pound carrots (young and quite fresh if possible), trimmed, peeled and cut into quarters lengthwise
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a couple extra tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom honey
- a splash of agrodolce (or a similar) vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a couple pinches later
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- zest of 1/2 orange
- 1½ cup vegetable broth
- 3/4 cups red quinoa
- 2 small cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
- 1 tablespoon creme fraiche
- 1-2 handfuls shelled, roasted, salted pistachios; gently crushed to small chunks
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Place your prepared carrots on a baking sheet large enough to hold them in a single layer. In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the 1/4 cup olive oil, honey and vinegar; pour it evenly over the carrots. Then sprinkle the carrots with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, white pepper and orange zest. Gently toss everything until well combined. Slide the carrots into the oven and bake -stirring occasionally- until they can be pierced with a knife but retain a definite crunch, about 28 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the vegetable broth to a boil and then add the quinoa. Cover, turn the heat to medium-low and cook until the quinoa is done to al dente. Remove from heat, keeping the lid on, and let steam until you're ready for it.
While the quinoa and carrots are cooking, make a quick thyme pistou by crushing into a few tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic, thyme leaves and a small pinch of kosher salt. A mortar and pestle work well for this. Set aside.
Remove the carrots from the oven and transfer the carrot sticks to a plate; carefully pour the cooking liquid that remains on the pan into a small bowl. You should have just under 1/4 cup. Into that whisk the creme fraiche and a large pinch of kosher salt. Stir this into the quinoa.
Spoon the quinoa salad into a mound on a serving platter and arrange the glazed carrots around it. Drizzle everything with the thyme pistou and sprinkle crumbled pistachios over top. Serve!