- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

My mission was to pick up a bunch or two of fresh-picked carrots for our week’s supply, but I stopped dead in my tracks as I headed for the carrot display at my local farmers market.

I was confronted with a palette of carrots that ranged in color from bright yellow to deep red with a few different shades of orange in between.

The shapes of these carrots ranged from long and slender to short and stocky.

I came home with a variety of carrots stuffed in my market bag, but before I began tasting and cooking, I did a little research. The carrot is a member of the Umbelliferae family. This family name refers to the white or pink flowers that are clustered together like umbrellas turned upside-down.

Other members of the family, all with distinctive aromas that are somewhat related, are fennel, parsley, celeriac and parsnip.

Officially, the carrot comes in not only the familiar orange but red, purple and even white. And yes, they are also long, thin, fat, short and even round.

Carrots are an ancient vegetable, known to the Romans and eaten throughout the world. They are high in beta carotene (which our bodies change into Vitamin A). This is undoubtedly why my mother told me to eat my carrots to make my eyes bright and beautiful.

Carrots are the easiest of vegetables to prepare.

Among my favorite preparations are to serve them pureed in a ginger and carrot soup, cut into chunks and boiled in apple juice with a stick of cinnamon and cut diagonally and roasted in the oven with ground cumin and lemon slices.

Chopped they go into stews and soups. Diced they are a classic with peas.

And then there is the simple carrot stick preparation, a favorite snack food for adults, children and canine members of the family.

For the following menu I serve carrots (use a variety of colors, if available) raw and coarsely shredded in a fresh-tasting salad dressed with unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar and flavored with snipped fresh cilantro.

Serve this tangy salad with grilled or pan-seared soy marinated shrimp and a simple side dish of sesame brown rice sprinkled with sesame seeds.

For dessert serve fresh papaya with lime syrup.

Shredded carrot salad with rice wine vinaigrette

To make evenly sized, coarse shreds of carrot use the wide shredding blade on your food processor or do it by hand with the coarse shred side of a four-sided box grater.

The preparation time is 15 minutes.

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons unseasoned Japanese rice wine vinegar

teaspoon minced garlic

teaspoon coarse salt

4 cups (about 1 pound) peeled and coarsely shredded carrots

cup thinly sliced scallions (both green and white parts)

cup finely chopped cilantro

Whisk oil, rice vinegar, garlic and salt together until blended. Add carrots, scallions and cilantro and toss to blend.

Serve cold or at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled or pan-seared soy-marinated shrimp

The preparation time is 15 minutes, the marinating time is 20 to 60 minutes, and the cooking time is 4 minutes.

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, minced

Pinch of hot red pepper flakes

1 pound (about 16) large shelled and deveined shrimp

Sesame brown rice (recipe follows)

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

1 lime, cut into wedges for garnish

Combine soy sauce, ginger, garlic and hot red pepper flakes in a bowl.

Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes or refrigerated for about 1 hour.

Next either pan sear or grill shrimp.

To pan sear, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot enough to sizzle when sprinkled with a few drops of water.

Add shrimp, a few at a time, and quickly sear on both sides, until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.

To grill, thread shrimp onto double skewers placed about 1 inch apart to keep the shrimp from twirling around. Cook on a hot grill just until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.

Serve shrimp over sesame brown rice and garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Sesame brown rice

The preparation time is 5 minutes, and the cooking time is 45 minutes.

1 cup medium- or long-grain brown rice

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons toasted (dark) sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown sesame seeds

In a large broad saucepan or saute pan heat 23/4 cups water to boiling. Stir in rice and salt. Return to boil. Stir once, cover and cook over medium-low heat until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Do not stir. Uncover and let stand until ready to serve. Drizzle with sesame oil and spoon into a serving dish. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately with grilled or pan-seared soy-marinated shrimp. Makes 4 servings.

Papaya with lime syrup

2 limes

2 tablespoons sugar or more to taste

2 ripe papayas, halved, seeds removed, peeled and cut into thin wedges

Cut limes in half and squeeze the juice (about 2 tablespoons) from 3 halves. Cut remaining half into thin slices. Set aside.

In a serving bowl combine lime juice and juice halves. Add sugar and stir with a spoon to dissolve the sugar. Add the papaya slices and gently fold to coat with the lime syrup.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, remove squeezed lime halves and garnish papaya with reserved lime slices. Makes 4 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES INTERNATIONAL

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