Spice-Crusted Carrots with Sambal Yogurt

Spice-toting, fried crispy edges, ever-so-sweetly give way to a kind of a roasty, toasty, carroty goodness, finished with a shower of lemon zest and tangy Asiago, with a ridiculousy yummy kicked-up yogurt, for dipping.


They're farm-to-table, they're delicious in any season, they're good for you, they're always in vogue, and at this time of year, they'll help you see the Vampires hiding in the darkness.  "Dahlink, vaht ees daht you are havink vor yor midnight schnahck?" 

And besides all that.....the Ancient Greeks called the carrot a philtron, which translates to "love charm." They believed the carrot made both men and women more amorous.  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean, know what I mean?! 

Pass the carrots, please.  Babycakes.

It was the photo that first caught my attention, when I happened across this recipe in Bon Appetit just a few days, before excitedly, eye-spying some beautiful, little, sunset-hued, heirloom carrots at the farmers market........ and the rest is, well, carrot history.

These, my friends, are good carrots! 

By first blanching and then coating with spices, laced with a bit of sugar, and then frying until deep-golden brown, you pretty much copy-cat the glorious effects of roasting these garden gems.  But better.  'Cuz, oh mama, that sauteeing takes these babies to new heights of yum. And then you scatter them with lemon zest and finely grated, creamy Asiago.  

But, wait, we're not finished yet.  On the side, for dipping (or smearing) (or slathering) cool, creamy, seductively spicy Greek yogurt!  Gutsy yogurt, that has been hot-chili slammed with sambal.   Bodacious!

I've changed the recipe that I found that day, but I still have to say, thank-you, thank-you very much, for a damn good carrot recipe, Bon Appetit!

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In early Celtic literature, the carrot is referred to
as the "Honey Underground".

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- Serves 4

2 pounds small carrots with tops, scrubbed, tops trimmed to 1/2" or so
Sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon English mustard powder
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (or so) vegetable oil, divided
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sambal oelek
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or dillweed, plus more (optional)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus more
Finely grated Asiago cheese (I use a microplane. How I love my microplane.)
Lemon wedges (for serving)

Cook carrots in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender and skins easily rub off, about 5 minutes; drain.  Transfer to bowl of ice water.  Using paper towels, gently rub carrots to remove skins and pat dry.

Cut any bigger carrots in half lengthwise, so all carrots cook evenly.

Mix sugar, mustard powder, paprika, cumin and onion powder in a small bowl.  Toss carrots with 1 tablespoon oil in a pie plate, or bowl.  Add spice mixture; season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron.  Working in 2 batches, cook carrots, turning occasionally, until deep brown all over, 6-8 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, place yogurt in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.  Add sambal oelek, 2 teaspoons thyme and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and gently swirl ingredients, stopping before yogurt turns pink. (Sometimes, I have discovered, I like pink yogurt!)

Spoon sambal yogurt onto plates and top with carrots, more thyme, more lemon zest and as much finely grated Asiago as suits your fancy.  Serve with lemon wedges, and a silly smile. 

Do ahead: Carrots can be cooked in boiling water and peeled up to 8 hours ahead.  Cover and chill.