In retrospect, it’s amazing that something so simple took three tries to master.
The genesis of this idea came from a newspaper story about how Seattle now fines people for throwing out food scraps. The article suggested turning carrot tops into sauces and pestos.
“What a great idea,” I thought. So next shopping trip, I picked up a bunch of lovely baby carrots, cut off the tops and added them to my basic pesto recipe.
Meh. The pesto tasted like … pesto. Only chewier.
So I headed to the grocery store, bought another bunch of baby carrots and cut off the tops. This time, I blanched them in boiling water, thinking a quick cook would bring out the carrot flavor. After draining and drying, I whirled the tops in a food processor with lemon juice and olive oil.
A lot of olive oil.
Probably 8 ounces of olive oil, all in an effort to get a smooth consistency.
Which never materialized. This “sauce” tasted like freshly mowed grass that I’d picked, then plopped into lemon and oil. It ended up in the trash.
The quest was now personal. I went back to the store, bought one more bunch of baby carrots and tried again.
This time, I whirred the carrot tops with lemon juice, olive oil and — in an effort to smooth out the texture — a handful of parsley. The resulting sauce wasn’t as slimy as my previous go-round, but it still had a grassy chew. (Think carrot cud.)
“I cannot buy anymore baby carrots!” I wailed. But then I started to wonder: What would happen if I strained the sauce?
After pushing the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, the resulting oil tasted like essence of carrot with a mineral hit from the parsley. It was perfect spooned over oven-roasted asparagus, red onion and all those baby carrots I’d collected. It was even more flavorful a couple of days later when we ladled it over chicken roasted with Moroccan spices.
So simple. So springlike.
So (eventually) easy.
Cut the tops off the carrots and rinse thoroughly to remove grit. If the tops are a little limp, soak them in ice water for 10-15 minutes to recrisp. Drain and dry very well.
Place the carrot tops in the bowl of a food processor. Add the parsley and lemon juice, then season with 1/4- to 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Process until the mixture is finely chopped.
With the food processor running, add olive oil until the greens begin sloshing. (You’ll hear a distinct change in sound when this occurs.) You want a pretty liquid concoction.
Spoon the resulting oil over roasted vegetables, fish or meat.