Golightly Gourmet: Altering climate change, one carrot top at a time

By Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet
“When we think about threats to the environment, we tend to picture cars and smokestacks, not dinner. But the truth is, our need for food poses one of the biggest dangers to the planet.” National Geographic on the future of food.

I think it is safe to say that our climate is changing. This is a tough subject that even though it is talked about a lot, there doesn’t seem to be much being done to change it. I think that is because everyone is a little at loss on what we can do to avert this. I know I am. But it has come home to roost here on our lovely coast and it is time to talk about how it affects us, our food and what we can do about it.

Everything about our food is tied to climate conditions. Our agriculture and fisheries are highly dependent on specific climate conditions to flourish. We see those changes all around us as our ocean warms and our rain and snow become elusive. The tomatoes may love it but there are many ancient ecosystems that have been in place for hundreds of thousands of years, that don’t.

On top of this concerning climate change is the looming fact that humans are thriving and the population of the world is expected to increase by two billion more in the next 30 years. That is a population increase of more than 35% to our already weighty footprint. So the million dollar questions are how are we going to feed our population and not ruin this fragile planet? And what can the individual do to make a difference?

National Geographic recently did an in-depth study into this very challenging subject and have come up with some pretty good answers to these questions. They have a 5 step plan on feeding the world and lowering our impact on our environment that is quite frankly brilliant. It is a very practical and thoughtful strategy that I want to share with you here over the next few articles as this is a very important subject that affects everything; our planet, our wildlife, our food, our children and ourselves.

To start up the great plan to save the world, I thought I’d share this wonderful recipe for carrot top pesto in the spirit of reducing food waste. It was developed by a London chef, April Bloomfield, for those carrot tops that we all toss in the compost. If you have never nibbled on a carrot top, there is a happy surprise waiting for you. They have an earthy, spicy flavor to them (and a bit bitter too) that you will find plenty of places to use them. I treat them like herbs and sprinkle them in salads or add them to stir fries and marinades. What a delicious way to improve our climate.

Roasted carrots with carrot top pesto and burrata
Manzanita Fresh Foods is carrying burrata this summer for our enjoyment.
For the carrot top pesto
It is easy to strip all the carrot leaves off the stem in one fell swoop. Pinch the stem near the top with the fingers of one hand. Then run the fingers of your other hand down the length of the stem from top to bottom.

2 cups of lightly packed carrot leaves, stems discarded, roughly chopped
A small handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup of nuts such as walnuts, filberts or pine nuts
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 garlic clove, quartered
1/2 tsp of a flaky salt like Maldon’s or Kosher or Jacobsen’s
1/3 cup of really nice extra virgin olive oil

Pesto is made very easily in a food processor and if you do not have one, go buy one. (You can also make it in the blender but just make sure and chop everything a bit finer before subjecting your blender to it.)

In your handy dandy food processor add the carrot tops and basil and pulse a few times. Then add the nuts, cheese, garlic and salt and pulse several more times then process full on while slowly pouring in the olive oil. Stop and scrape down the sides occasionally till the pesto is blended well and beautifully fragrant. Taste and season with more salt if you fancy.

The carrots
20 small carrots, about the size of your fingers, scrubbed but not peeled. Leave 1/2 inch of the green tops on them. If they are big, cut them in half
3 Tbs of very good virgin olive oil, divided
A few pinches of Kosher or another flaky salt and pepper
1/2 pound burrata cheese or marinated fresh mozzarella balls
A handful of carrot top leaves

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the center. Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a heavy roasting pan big enough to hold all them carrots in a single layer. Toss the carrots in the olive oil, position them to a single layer and then pop in the oven to roast, stirring every once in a while, till they are done about 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle a few pinches of salt and some pepper on the carrots and toss again. Let the carrots cool for a bit to serve.

Cut the burrata in half and arrange on a pretty serving platter. If you are using mozzarella balls, scatter them about the serving platter. Arrange the roasted carrots so they are pointing this way and that, rather rebellious like. Add 3-4 Tbs of the pesto in little dollops, here and there. (You’ll have left over pesto to use in a million delicious ways like on your eggs and in your salad.) Drizzle one Tbs of the olive oil over everything, sprinkle a few chopped nuts and garnish with carrot leaves. Serve either as an appetizer, vegetarian main dish, or a side. It does it all!