Even growing up in the Depression didn’t make my grandma immune to persuasive tactics at the table. “Carrots are good for your eyes,” she’d tell me as I pushed the boiled orange coins, floating in pools of butter, around my plate. Grandma had worn thick, plastic-framed glasses the whole time I’d known her, and I’d qualified as near-sighted almost as soon as I went to school, so the idea of not wearing glasses was appealing. She knew her audience, you could say. Thanks to her, carrots became one of the first vegetables I wanted to eat, along with green beans and potatoes, if you’re the type that calls potatoes vegetables, but I can’t say it was because I liked them.
She was right, obviously, about the health benefits of carrots, the same way anyone who tells you about the vitamins in fruits and vegetables would be right. Real food, grown on trees or in the ground, is filled with real benefits—but I only learned later that the health benefits of these foods were just the beginning. Because while, sure, carrots are crazy high in beta carotene (which got its name from carrots!), antioxidants and, the darker the better, anthocyanins, they’re also delicious.
Particularly when roasted.
If you ask me, roasting is to vegetables what carpentry is to lumber, what construction is to a home with good bones, what love is to a wounded soul. Through oil, heat and seasoning, roasting becomes a testament to transformation, to beauty by fire. And in the case of carrots, the glory of roasting shines bright.
Around here, usually when we roast carrots, we peel and slice them, tossing them with oil, salt and pepper all over, drizzling with honey at the end. The already-sweet carrots caramelize in the oven, softening and wilting and crisping around the edges, becoming almost like candy with the little honey on top.
In this recipe, though, we tried something different. Matchstick slices of carrots get tossed with a herbed ghee mixture that involves dill, basil and parsley. Tossed with salt and pepper, the mixture goes into the oven for around 40 minutes.
When the carrots are done, blackened and charred, wilted and crisp, they are like oily, herby fries—perfect for layering on tartines.
Our tartines—or crostini or bruschetta or toasts—are simple to assemble: toast, pesto spread, carrots, a little maple syrup and chopped parsley sprinkled in top. They’re pretty as a picture, the kind of thing to make you double-take and want to grab a bite. They’d make interesting appetizers for a party, although I’ll admit we ate them for dinner alongside a giant salad stuffed with roasted beets. And they’re hard not to love, from the crunchy base of toast to the sweet and savory toppings piled on top.
But, mostly, above all else, these tartines are a great way to showcase the carrot, in all its nutritional, colorful, candy-like glory. I like eating them and thinking, I’m doing Grandma proud.
Herb-Roasted Carrots and Pesto Tartines
Makes 6 to 8 small bites
If you were to serve these tartines at a party, you might want to horizontally halve the carrot matchsticks for the sake of making them the sort of mobile snacks for guests to easily carry around a room. True, once they’re roasted, they’re easy to bend and arrange on top of the toasts, but the long slices can get messy as you bite in, so consider yourself warned.
1 pound of the prettiest carrots you can find
2 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 tablespoon chopped basil
Salt and pepper
3 to 4 pieces of bread (we used a spelt sourdough, but any crusty bread would work)
A few tablespoons of your favorite pesto (like this one)
Maple syrup, for drizzling
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Peel a pound of carrots and cut them into skinny matchsticks, first halving them vertically and then halving them vertically again. Spread out onto a rimmed half-sheet pan.
Stir together or mash two tablespoons of ghee with the 1/4 cup chopped parsley, tablespoon of chopped dill and tablespoon of chopped basil. Once combined, spread this mixture all over the sliced carrots, tossing well. Salt and pepper all over the top.
Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until carrots are beautifully golden. If you like, you can remove the pan about five minutes before it’s done and drizzle some maple syrup on top.
Remove carrots from oven and toast three or four slices of bread.
Slice toast into bite-size pieces (about half a slice of sandwich bread). Spread with pesto. Top with roasted carrots. Once you have all the tartines assembled, drizzle a tiny bit of maple syrup all over the top and sprinkle chopped parsley as a garnish. Serve immediately, while still warm.
Suggested variation: Instead of pesto, try ricotta or mascarpone cheese.