Eons ago, March 2010, an idea was born while sailing on the Caribbean. Six of us fish-out-of-water friends were aboard a rather fancy boat, which was an unfathomably generous birthday gift from my sister and her husband – they are keepers. On board, Dr. April sparked an idea to combine our passion for eating real food into a mission to share easy, approachable ideas and information with others. Thus, launched crunchtimefood.com. Dr. Henry, April’s husband sparked another idea, make our own video to Andy Samburg’s The Lonely Island. What are six adults to do when their children aren’t around? They become children. You won’t see that video here, yet.
After the trip, April sent a thank you note in the form of, what else, a cookbook, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. It’s one of her favorites likely because Henry is masterful with a fire – Cuban, pig roasts, and the like. The book is an amazing lesson in the art of fire cooking, yet there are simple extractions that work for the practical crunchtime cook.
April insisted I make the burnt carrots and I’m thinking what, char the one vegetable the kids will eat? But, here’s the dealio with these and if you have kids why it works: cooking carrots brings out their sweetness (the carrots, not the kids – although it’s an idea), charring the carrots locks in the flavor, the kitchen wafts of sweet home cooking, and giving kids a new riff on foods keeps them open-palated.
I admit, I have never liked just cooked carrots; maybe they remind me of Dinty Moore or more dinty, I don’t know. But, these crispy guys have the right amount of bite and they’re packed with flavor.
Also, going for burnt carrots became a great way to introduce multicolored carrots picked up from our very own Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. Always proponents of food color at crunchtime, because variety in color provides variety in nutrients and such is the case with carrots. Reds have more lycopene the magical nutrient found in tomatoes that’s been shown to ward off prostate cancer (give it to your boys). The purples have a different antioxidant property than the typical orange rooter. And yellows have xanthophylls and lutene two properties similar to beta-carotene to promote healthy eyes -see I told you.
The fire, #2 of seven, a chapa, which is a “flat piece of iron” set over fire. Exotic, yes? I used my cast iron pan over my gas burner for in-house aroma and for lack of real chapa. I have also prepared, from this book, pork tenderloins with burnt brown sugar and orange confit (fancy rind business), using a chapa on my grill. Perhaps more rustic than the confines of my kitchen where a bottle of wine is within arm’s reach, not yet the wood fire. I’ll get there. And in the meantime, cast iron, or even your own heavy pan, works well.
I did not include the called for crumbled goat cheese and crispy garlic chips, keeping it simple for the kids. But, I’ll provide you with the details, so if you’re inspired, you can go full fire recipe.
Preptime: 15 minutes (cleaning, chopping) Serves 8
Cooktime: 10 minutes (carrots)
5 minutes (goat cheese)
10 minutes (garlic chips)
8 medium carrots, 12 smaller carrots (1 1/2 lbs), cleaned and dried (don’t have to peel)
2 T red wine vinegar
1/2 c + if using goat cheese, 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
course salt & freshly ground pepper
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 small bunch of parsley, leaves only
2 bunches arugula, washed, trimmed and dried
6 oz goat cheese (Bûcheron recommended by author) sliced 1/2″ thick (optional)
crispy garlic chips (recipe to follow)
- Make vinaigrette: pour vinegar in bowl, whisk in 5 T of olive, season to taste and set aside.
- Cut carrots crosswise in half. If using large carrots, cut the halves into thick rough sticks (no smaller than 1/2″).
- Toss in a bowl with 3 T of olive oil, thyme, salt & pepper.
- Heatcast iron pan (chapa) over high heat.
- Working in batches, add the carrots in a single layer and cook, without turning, until they are charred on the bottom and almost burned (3-5 minutes). Turn with a spatula and cook another 2-3 minutes until they are crunchy on the outside and tender within.
- Combine parsley and arugula on a large serving platter and toss lightly with the vinaigrette.
- Serving: place carrots on top of the arugula. Optional: add burned goat cheese (below) and garlic chips (below that).
goat cheese (optional)
- Wipe out skillet. Reheat it to very high heat and coast with the remaining 1 -2 T of olive oil. Note: I would probably use canola oil or grapeseed oil here because they have a high heat smoking point.
- Immediately add the goat cheese.
- As soon as you see the cheese blacken, remove with a thin spatula and flip over onto carrots (you want the burn side up).
garlic chips (optional)
4 garlic cloves
1 c olive oil
- Slice the garlic very thin (use a mandoline or very thin slicer if possible)
- Heat the olive oil in a 10-skillet over medium-high heat. Test the temp, by placing one garlic slice in the skillet, if it sizzles, add in the rest of the slices.
- Cook for seconds only until you see them turning light brown and crisping. Do not overcook here or they will burn.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel.