Carrots are at their sweetest and most tender in their youth. Those baseball bat–sized versions might be the workhorses of a good stew, but if you’re going to put them at the center of the plate, you want these root vegetables plucked from the soil as teenagers, around seven weeks instead of 10. “Whenever we get them,” says Watershed on Peachtree executive chef Zeb Stevenson, “we milk them for everything they’re worth.” That includes using their verdant, leafy tops, which Stevenson treats as an herb. Here’s how to follow suit.
Serve them raw
Make a grain-free riff on tabbouleh with carrots standing in for bulgur and carrot tops replacing parsley. First, separate the tops, removing any tough stems. Coarsely chop the carrots and toss with 1 tsp. salt. Let stand for 30 minutes in a colander; the salt will draw out excess water. Place carrots, their tops, 1 peeled garlic clove, ¼ cup olive oil, and the zest of ½ lemon in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and serve with crackers.
Sear them like meat
Remove tops. Halve carrots lengthwise and season with salt. Heat a cast-iron skillet and add 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Place carrots in the skillet, cut-side down, and cook until almost blackened, or about 2 minutes. Don’t flip! “I like the contrast between the deeply charred cut side and the barely cooked top side,” says Stevenson. Arrange on a plate, sprinkle with sea salt, and garnish with chimichurri.
About that chimichurri
Substitute tender baby carrot tops for the typical parsley in this fresh sauce. In a food processor, puree ½ pound carrot tops with 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 2 peeled garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, and ½ tsp. each sea salt and red pepper flakes.
Treat them right
There’s no need to peel these babies. Stevenson simply rubs their delicate skins with a clean, wet towel to remove any debris. As for the greens, agitate them in salted water to remove any dirt.
Carrot mimosa, anyone? Juice 1 pound baby carrots, 2 Pink Lady or other tart-sweet apples, and a 1-inch-long knob of ginger; stir to combine. In a large container, mix equal parts juice and Champagne. Pour into flutes.
Zeb Stevenson 101
The Watershed on Peachtree chef has also cooked at Houston Mill House, the gone but not forgotten Dick and Harry’s, Spice Market, Livingston Restaurant and Bar, and Parish, and he crushed the competition on season 12 of Food Network’s Chopped. He’s also a USDA-certified canner.
This article originally appeared in our April 2017 issue.