Turns out the common orange carrot that has marched through our lives on lunch plates, dinner platters, and crudités trays is a rather latecomer to America. Historians tell us it wasn’t eaten here until after World War I when soldiers returning home brought with them stories of delicious European carrot preparations. The Dutch are credited with the selective breeding that transformed previously bitter and rather wooden-textured carrots into the sweet, crunchy, orange vegetable we enjoy today.
The good news for us is that in recent years, plant breeders have perfected a variety of brilliantly colored red, purple, and yellow carrots with great flavor, texture, and enhanced nutritional value. Roasted and combined with fresh ginger and spice, they make a vibrantly delicious side dish.
FOR THE ROAST CARROTS:
• 2 pounds purple, red, and orange carrots, with carrot tops intact
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
• 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
• 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh garlic
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
FOR THE SPICED HONEY BUTTER:
• 1/4 cup butter
• 2 teaspoons honey
• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
• Pinch of cayenne pepper
1. Line a large half-sheet baking tray with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400 F. Trim greens from carrot tops, leaving 1 to 2 inches of green stems. Scrub carrots well in cool water. Using a sharp vegetable peeler and long light strokes, peel carrots.
2. Aiming for uniform size, cut fatter carrots into halves (and if necessary, quarters) lengthwise.
3. Place peeled carrots in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk vegetable oil, paprika, ginger, garlic, salt pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl; pour over the peeled carrots. Toss to coat well. Arrange carrots in a single layer on a parchment-covered baking tray. Sprinkle with a bit more fresh cracked pepper. Cover tray with aluminum foil. Roast in 400 F oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil. Continue roasting, uncovered for an additional 10 minutes until fork tender.
4. Heat butter and honey in the microwave for 20 seconds; whisk in paprika and cayenne. Pour over roasted carrots. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.