Carrots are at their sweetest in spring, when their bright colors and delicate flavors shine. They are tender enough to enjoy raw in salads and sandwiches, but still hearty enough for roasting and simmering. Read on for our best tips for working with carrots, then find some simple ways to prepare them this season, straight from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Choose smooth, firm, brightly colored carrots without cracks or any green tint near the stem. If they still have their leaves, cut them off before storing. Leave 1 inch (2.5 cm.) of the green tops to preserve moisture. Keep the carrots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Prep tips: If your carrots are small and tender, just scrub them under cold running water with a soft vegetable brush and use without peeling them. For large carrots, use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel them. Be sure to trim stems and tough ends before using.
Uses: As we mentioned before, raw carrots are great for salads and snacking. However, they can also be cooked in soups, stews and braises or roasted as a side dish. And don’t forget about baking — a moist carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting is hard to top. Carrots are also great for juicing, either alone or with other fruits and vegetables, as their sweetness balances out earthier flavors.
Variations: At farmers’ markets in the spring, you can find carrots in a rainbow of colors: white, yellow, red and purple. The specific colors are influenced by growing conditions like temperature and soil. You can use them in any recipe that calls for carrots, adding a splash of rich color to the dish.
Simple Pickled Carrots: Peel and julienne 3 medium carrots. Toss with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 Tbs. sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes, then rinse. Whisk together 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1 1/2 Tbs. sugar until dissolved. Add carrots and let sit at least 1 hour before serving.
Roasted Baby Spring Carrots: Trim and peel baby spring carrots and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 450 degrees F until tender. Toss with fresh chopped herbs and more olive oil before serving.
Shaved Carrot Salad: Peel carrots and then run vegetable peeler lengthwise down carrot sides to create long ribbons. Place carrot ribbons in ice water to crisp. Drain and dry ribbons. Toss with lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, salt, a pinch of sugar, chopped mint and thinly shaved red onion.
Carrot Puree: Steam equal parts carrots and russet potatoes until very tender. Puree in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste.