Tuesday, July 23, 2024

How to Use Baby Carrots, and Vegetable Leftovers, Before They Go Bad

Once, not long ago, I had a recurring baby carrot problem. It arose each time I bought a bag of them to take with me on a road trip. Inevitably, I wouldn’t finish it — there are only so many baby carrots you can eat before you feel your jaw start to unhinge itself — and it would wind up in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer to grow slimy past the point of consumption. This really bothered me, as I hate wasting food. But baby carrots hold almost no allure for me outside of my car, where I eat them mostly because they’re crunchy and won’t leave greasy crumbs all over my lap.

It never occurred to me that you could just roast baby carrots, until finally, not too long ago, it did. While I am hardly the first person to realize this, it qualified as a major revelation. I’d always thought of baby carrots as an end point, something to be eaten as-is rather than further manipulated. In actuality, roasting is the best way to take advantage of the carrots’ uniform size, and it concentrates their pale flavor into a rich, husky sweetness.

Although roasting baby carrots with salt, pepper, and olive oil is a reliable technique, adding miso can be a low-effort way to further elevate the dish’s flavor. | Getty Images

Roasting baby carrots made me reconsider the other vegetable bits and ends that sometimes languish in my refrigerator. Like, say, the half an onion whose other half was dispatched into a recipe for black beans and rice. Or the loose radishes that got lost beneath a bunch of fresh parsley until they went soft and wrinkly, the kale leaves yellowing at the edges, or the quarter of a purple cabbage that no longer seems right for slaw. Pretty much every piece of vegetable matter, save for fresh herbs, can go on a roasting pan and emerge greatly improved from a spell in the oven. While roasting everything with olive oil, salt, and pepper produces reliable results, sometimes I like to bump things up a notch by mixing the olive oil with miso, which amplifies the umami factor and creates a pleasing contrast to the natural sweetness of the vegetables.

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So the next time you find yourself with a half-bag of baby carrots, or any vegetable at death’s door, throw them on a roasting pan. Eat them alone, or with some kind of grain, or beneath a cloak of just about any sauce. It really doesn’t matter how you eat them, so long as you roast them first.

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