Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto and Burrata

If you can get your hands on burrata-a really special cheese, like delicate mozzarella with a creamy center-then you're already most of[ the way toward a great dish. In the spring, I'll serve burrata with Snap Pea Salad; in high summer, I'll pair it with slices of ripe tomato, good olive oil, and flaky salt. When summer fades, I crave burrata with roasted carrots, a pairing that's less common but no less worthy of your attention. The two are like good mates, each helping the other along: the sweetness of the carrots sets off the tanginess of the cheese; the cheese's tanginess makes the carrots tastes even sweeter. Pesto made from the carrot tops adds color and salty, herbaceous wallops throughout the dish.]

Total Time:
1 hr
Prep:
35 min
Cook:
25 min

Yield:
Serves 4 to 6 as a Side
Level:
Intermediate

Ingredients
  • 20 small carrots (the size of pointer fingers), scrubbed well but not peeled, all but 1/2-inch of the tops removed and reserved
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon plus a few pinches of Maldon or another flaky sea salt
  • 1/2 pound room-temperature burrata, drained
  • About 3 tablespoons Carrot Top Pesto, recipe follows
  • A five-finger pinch of basil leaves, torn at the last minute if large
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Carrot-Top Pesto:
  • 4 cups lightly packed delicate carrot tops (stems discarded), roughly chopped
  • A small handful of basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1 medium garlic clove, halved lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Directions
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees F.

  • Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into a heavy ovenproof pan big enough to hold the carrots in a single layer. Set the pan over high heat and bring the oil to a light smoke. Add the carrots, sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of the salt, and turn the carrots to coat them in the oil. Cook, turning over the carrots occasionally, until they're browned in spots, 6 to 8 minutes. Pop the pan in the oven and roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the carrots are evenly tender, 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of your carrots. Let the carrots cool slightly. Halve the burrata and arrange the halves on a platter. Arrange the carrots on the platter so they're pointing this way and that. Add the pesto here and there in little dollops.

  • Pluck enough 2-to 3-inch delicate sprigs from the reserved carrot tops to make about 1 1/2 lightly packed cups and toss them in a bowl with the basil. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil with the lemon juice and a good pinch of salt in a small bowl until the mixture looks creamy. Use a little of the lemon dressing to lightly dress the carrot top-basil mixture, sprinkle on a little more salt, and toss well. Arrange the mixture on top of the carrots and burrata. Drizzle everything with the remaining lemon dressing and serve.

Carrot-Top Pesto:
  • Combine the carrot tops and basil in a small food processor, pulse several times, then add the walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, and salt. Pulse several more times, add the oil, then process full-on, stopping and scraping down the sides of the processor or stirring gently if need be, until the mixture is well combined but still a bit chunky. Taste and season with more salt, if you fancy. Yield: about 1 cup

  • Photo by David Loftus

Cook's Note: I treat carrot tops as I would a tender herb, adding little sprigs to salads as I might parsley or dill. And because each bunch of carrots can bring twice the volume in tops, I make pesto. As much as I like the particular flavor of the tops themselves, I also like how they carry the flavor of basil, which comes through quite a bit considering how few leaves you use.


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