Roast carrots for sweetness and colour

Pomegranate for a recipe of roasted carrot salad with arugula and pomegranate. To further bring out the flavour of the pomegranate molasses in this salad, add pomegranate seeds as a juicy garnish.
Pomegranate for a recipe of roasted carrot salad with arugula and pomegranate. To further bring out the flavour of the pomegranate molasses in this salad, add pomegranate seeds as a juicy garnish.PHOTO: ANDREW SCRIVANI / NYTIMES
The sweet juices condense when carrots are roasted, turning honeylike and golden.
The sweet juices condense when carrots are roasted, turning honeylike and golden.PHOTO: ANDREW SCRIVANI / NYTIMES
Add fresh pomegranate seeds to bring out the flavours in the salad.
Add fresh pomegranate seeds to bring out the flavours in the salad.PHOTO: ANDREW SCRIVANI / NYTIMES

(NYTimes) - A few years ago, carrots were like celery and onions, part of many a dish but rarely the star. Maybe you would see them as a side dish, buttered and glazed, or puréed into a soup.

Then one day, roasted heirloom carrots in various colours started appearing in trendy restaurants as an appetiser - or even a main course.

The roots had arrived, earning their place in the farm-to-table pantheon next to the burnished cauliflower and crispy brussels sprouts.

  • Roasted Carrot Salad With Arugula and Pomegranate

  • Yield: 4 servings Total time: 45 minutes
  • Ingredients

    454g carrots, peeled and cut into 5-cm lengths (halve them if carrots are large)
    ¼ tsp kosher salt, more to taste
    ⅛ tsp ground black pepper, more to taste
    ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
    ½ tsp ground cumin
    1 Tbs pomegranate molasses
    1/2 Tbs fresh lemon juice, more to taste
    1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced
    ½ tsp Dijon mustard
    85g baby arugula (about 3 cups)
    1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
    ¼ cup fresh dill fronds or mint leaves
    Pomegranate seeds, as needed
    Yogurt, for serving (optional)
    Toasted walnuts or crumbled pita chips, for serving (optional)

  • Method

    1. Heat oven to 220 deg C. Toss carrots with salt, pepper and 2 Tbs oil on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until edges are caramelised and carrots are tender, 28 to 33 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately toss with cumin. Let cool for a few minutes while you make the dressing. Carrots should be slightly warm but not hot when tossed with the greens.

    2. In a large bowl, whisk together pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, mustard and large pinch of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust lemon juice and seasonings if necessary. Whisk in remaining 1/4 cup oil until emulsified.

    3. Stir carrots into dressing, then gently toss with arugula, fennel and dill or mint. Serve immediately, drizzled with more olive oil and topped with pomegranate seeds, and yogurt and nuts or pita chips if using.

I am in full favour of this development, because roasting is one of my favorite ways to cook a carrot. The sweet juices condense in the oven's high heat, turning honey-like and golden. The flesh slackens, the pointy bits char.

They are wonderful eaten steaming hot from the oven, and just as good when allowed to cool to room temperature, making them as convenient as they are enticing.

In this extremely pretty recipe, the carrots give heft to a bright, herbal salad shot through with thinly sliced fennel. The arugula and fennel lend a gentle crunch; the carrots give their rich softness. And a bracing dressing spiked with sweet-tart pomegranate molasses lifts all of the elements, bringing them together.

About the pomegranate molasses: If you do not happen to have a bottle, perhaps left over from some past Ottolenghi pursuit, now is a great time to stock up.

Available in specialty shops and Middle Eastern groceries, a US$5 (S$7) bottle will keep forever in the pantry and be on hand whenever you want to add sweetness and tang in one quick dash.

Or try making your own by simmering down pomegranate juice with a bit of sugar and lemon juice until syrupy.

I regularly grab it when I want to give a salad dressing a touch of sweetness, but when honey would be too sugary. With its high acidity level, pomegranate molasses never gets cloying.

It i s also lovely drizzled on grain dishes, grilled meats and pretty much any vegetable that comes out of your oven.

To further bring out the pomegranate flavour in this salad, I add pomegranate seeds as a juicy garnish.

When I am serving this as a salad course, the garnishes stop there. But to transform it into a light main course, I will top it with plain yogurt and either nuts or pita chips for a more assertive crunch. Gorgeous roasted carrots do not need any more than that to shine.