February 6, 2014

Carrot Top Pesto (nut-free) with Roasted Carrots

I didn't always like cooked carrots. My first memories are of those mushy, boiled ones. Probably from a can. They made their appearance at home and were a regular feature in school lunches. That was when my strong dislike for cooked carrots began. Once I hit adulthood, I was free. No more cooked carrots for me. Even when I moved into my first apartment and begin cooking everyday, carrots were off the menu. The blurry memory of sitting at the dinner table with nothing but carrots left on my plate was enough to make me swear them off forever.

Or so I thought...

Carrot Top Pesto (nut-free) with Roasted Carrots

It wasn't until I started following paleo over a year ago that I decided to try out roasted carrots. I was roasting every other vegetable known to man (I like to exaggerate), so there was no reason to leave out the carrot. At first, I sliced them and tossed them with coconut oil and cumin. They were divine and I was hooked. No mushy carrots are welcome here. But, although these roasted carrots are delicious on their own, this recipe isn't really about the carrots...

It's about the pesto. This pesto was inspired by these gorgeous carrots from the farmers market. For the past few months, I've been obsessed with these colorful carrots. I can't help but grab several bunches every time. As I cut off the tops and starting munching on my purple and yellow carrots, I started thinking about those wasted greens. (You don't need rainbow carrots to make this. Orange ones are cool too.) When the farmer asked what I did with the greens, I told him and convinced him to try out some carrot top pesto as well!

Carrot Top Pesto (nut-free) with Roasted Carrots

I used to be a somewhat wasteful person when it came to food. I let food go bad and tossed it away with no thought. Now, I'm careful to plan my food and leftovers to prevent as much waste as possible. I save kale stems and onion ends to toss in chicken stock. I keep a board on the refrigerator with a list of my leftovers and freezer items. I've even started eating beet greens and turnip greens (something I would have never done before). You get the point. There's a lot of greens we discard that should be eaten! I'm not perfect, but I do my best. So, with all these carrots I was chowing down on, I figured it was time to eat carrot greens as well.

And I love this pesto. With or without the carrots. With just a spoon. Or my fingers. Whatever. I have no shame. The first time I made it with just the carrot tops, but I decided to add a little basil. This helps with the slightly grassy taste of the carrot tops. But honestly, I'd eat it either way. Today, we are tossing the pesto with the carrots. Because, why not? But, the pesto is also great tossed with zucchini noodles or in some chicken wraps or anywhere else you like your pesto (I put some on my burger. Yum.).

Carrot Top Pesto (nut-free) with Roasted Carrots

Note: There are some concerns online about eating carrot tops/greens, with some saying they are toxic. (They aren't.) I've eaten organic carrot tops over the last several months with no adverse effects. There are reports of some people being sensitive to carrot tops, so please do your own research if you are concerned. I have no issues eating them and plan to continue. Read more about the controversy about carrot tops herehere, and here.

To avoid issues that can occur with some greens, vary the types of greens you eat. Basically, don't eat large amounts day after day. Over-consumption applies to most foods -- even too many carrots can make your skin look orange. Don't worry, I didn't turn orange from all the carrots I've been eating -- just a little purple for awhile there. (I'm kidding.) But seriously, rotate your vegetables.

If you plan to eat the carrot tops, buy organic or locally grown carrots from a farmer you trust in order to avoid pesticides. Organic carrots tops are a great source of Vitamin C (containing even more than the carrots), potassium, calcium, Vitamin K, and chlorophyll. Oh, and you can use regular orange carrots for this (ones with tops). I love the beauty of the rainbow carrots, but the orange ones taste (mostly) the same. :)

Carrot Top Pesto (or Pistou) with Roasted Carrots
serves 4 

What you need:

Roasted carrots
1 bunch of carrots with tops, equal to about 1 lb (any color)
1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee (or other fat/oil)
salt and pepper (Omit pepper for AIP)
1 - 1 1/2 cup carrot greens, stems removed (from 1 bunch of carrots with tops)
1 cup, loosely-packed, basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp lemon juice
pinch salt
6-8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (I use 6)
Optional: 2 tbsp nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese (Omit for AIP)

How to make:

To roast carrots: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove tops (I leave part of the stem attached) and wash and dry carrots. Peel carrots if desired. (I don't peel mine.) If your carrots are large or different sizes, you can slice them into fry-like sticks. Lay carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle about 1 tbsp oil over the carrots. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Roast carrots for 20-45 minutes or until caramelized and tender (or to preference). Toss or flip them occasionally. I use small whole carrots and it takes about 20 minutes for carrots with a little bite to them.

To make pesto: Thoroughly wash carrot tops in a bath of water and vinegar. Remove any thick stems from the leaves. For one bunch, you should get about 1 - 1 1/2 packed cups of tops. Add carrot tops to food processor and pulse briefly. Add basil, garlic, salt, and lemon juice (and optional cheese) and process until finely chopped. Add olive oil slowly while running the food processor until smooth, adding more oil to preference. Adjust flavors. I add extra salt and lemon. Makes about 1/2 - 3/4 cup

To serve: Plate carrots and drizzle pesto on top. Or add a few spoonfuls of pesto to carrots and toss before serving. Pesto can be also used for other purposes, such as tossed with zucchini noodles.

  • This pesto is technically a pistou (meaning without nuts). I prefer the taste this way. If you'd like to add nuts to your pesto, add about 3 tbsp of pine nuts, walnuts, or sunflower seeds before adding oil. Add extra olive oil if needed to reach desired consistency. I have made it with sunflower seeds and it was good. I still prefer it without nuts.
  • If your food processor is small, you can add a little of the carrot tops at a time and pulse. You can also add olive oil all at once with no issue. 

Tip: Cut the tops off your carrots when you bring them home. The tops take moisture from the carrots, so they will last longer if you store them separately. By the way, did you know that carrots are more nutritious when cooked and it's best to buy carrots with their tops attached (removing them at home)? Check out the book, Eating on the Wild Side for other tips like this.

Oh, and uh, Valentine's Day is coming up....right? Well, these carrots and pesto would be lovely for a romantic dinner at home (am I the only who likes that stuff?), but if you're just interested in the chocolate, how about my Almond Pomegranate Chocolate Bark (almonds optional)? Or how about these mini No-Bake Coconut Tarts (berry or lemon)?

Carrot Top Pesto (nut-free) with Roasted Carrots
Carrot Top Pesto with zucchini noodles

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  1. I never thought to use the carrot tops to eat, very interesting. I will have to try this one out. Carrots have always not been one of my favorite vegetables either, so this may turn me around hopefully :-) Your pictures are always amazing Jacqueline!

  2. Livin' the Crunchy LifeFebruary 8, 2014 at 1:57 AM

    I thought the same, Marie! Now I eat a lot of "strange" greens. :) Yes, try the carrots then! They will change your mind! Roasting always makes vegetables tastes good (so far I haven't found one that isn't good roasted).

    Thanks for the compliment! I can't wait until I can get a real camera (instead of a cheap point and shoot), but I'm glad you like my photos regardless. The beautiful carrots really made it easy. :)

  3. I chose this recipe as one of my featured favorite's at this week's AIP Recipe Roundtable. I love recipes that use the whole vegetable! Thanks for linking up.

  4. Livin' the Crunchy LifeFebruary 16, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    Thanks Eileen!

  5. Oh my goodness this looks great!

  6. Livin' the Crunchy LifeMay 23, 2015 at 4:35 PM

    Thanks so much! :)

  7. 3 Studies SHOW Why Coconut Oil Kills Fat.

    This means that you actually burn fat by consuming coconut fats (including coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil).

    These 3 studies from major medicinal journals are sure to turn the conventional nutrition world upside down!


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