Za’atar roasted carrots with a carrot top pesto

I’ll be honest, I’m not really a roasted carrot person. In a salad, sure. But as a side dish on its own, not so much. I feel like they’re pretty boring. So when I started playing around with these za’atar roasted carrots, I didn’t have the highest of hopes. Which is why this recipe blows me away even more.

 

If you’ve never worked with za’atar before, this is the perfect recipe to get familiar with one of my favorite flavor profiles.  Za’atar is a traditional east Mediterranean spice blend, usually containing toasted sesame seeds, thyme, marjoram, and sumac.   I typically buy a premade blend at my local Whole Foods, but also love this blend from The Spice House here in Chicago that you can buy online.   This spice combination is warm and earthy and works great with roasted vegetables. 

The star of these za’atar roasted carroats though is the carrot top pesto, inspired by a dish I had at one of my favorite restaurants, Gjelina, in Venice CA.  We had Easter dinner at Gjelina this past year and I have to say it was one of the most memorable and special dinners of my life.  We were seated at the large rustic table on the second floor and we were the only ones there. The sun was shining in on us, the kids were all in a good mood reading their books. The music was great, the service was relaxed and warm and the food was out of this world.  

When we got back home I immediately ordered their cookbook and found the pesto they had on the carrots we ate that evening, and I’ve been making it ever since. It uses pumpkin seeds, a little orange zest, and of course the beautiful greens of the carrots.  

 

To balance it all out I added a simple yogurt sauce that has a touch of lemon and a sprinkle of za’atar.  Just a little element to cool it all off and balance out the hearty, earthy textures.  

This simple recipe is a fun twist on what can normally feel like a boring side dish.  It’s easy to put together, looks gorgeous on any spring table, and is absolutely delicious.  For sure my new “go-to” spring side dish.  

Za'atar roasted carrots with a carrot top pesto
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch of rainbow carrots (or any carrots of your choice) washed and peeled (with the stems removed, washed, and set aside as well)
  • 1-2 tbsp of za'atar spice mix
  • 2-3 tbsp of olive oil
  • Sprinkle of salt/pepper
  • Corrot top pesto (from Gjelina)
  • 2 tbsp of pumpkin seeds (lightly toasted)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ cup of carrot tops
  • ½ cup of flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ shallot, minced
  • zest of one orange
  • zest of one lemon (plus the juice)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of good olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of grated pecorino romano
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • a sprinkle of salt/pepper
  • For the yogurt sauce
  • 1 cup of full fat plain greek yogurt
  • the juice of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • ¼ cup of chopped mint and chopped cilantro
  • a sprinkle of salt/pepper
  • (option to add a sprinkle of za'atar spice here as well)
  • ¼ cup chopped pistachios for a garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees
  2. On a sheet pan, lay out carrots and drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp of za'atar spices and salt/pepper to taste. Toss gently to combine and relay on the baking sheet in an even layer.
  3. Roast carrots in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until carrots are crisp and golden brown (don't overcook the carrots, you want them golden and with a slight char, but not "mushy").
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the carrot top pesto
  5. In a food processor, combine the toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped carrot tops and parsley, orange/lemon zest, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, coriander, and a sprinkle of salt pepper. Pulse a few times. With the food processor going, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a "paste" has formed. Mix in the pecorino romano. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  6. To create the yogurt sauce place yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, and optional za'atar spice in a small bowl. Season with salt/pepper. Stir. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  7. To serve place the roasted carrots on a serving dish. Add a generous serving of the yogurt sauce along with the carrot top pesto. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and a sprinkle of za-atar spice. Serve and enjoy

Another great fall recipe you may like is this easy roasted sweet potatoes and kale salad with a ginger maple dressing.  

(Lill and I ate Gjenlina this past year)

 

 

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