- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Strips of carrot are cooked until tender, then marinated thoroughly and topped with delicious creamy sesame sauce. This deeply seasoned little dish makes a wonderful lunch entree when served with a simple lentil soup and whole-grain crackers. It’s also lovely as a first course for dinner or a side dish that doubles as a salad.

This needs a few hours to marinate, so plan accordingly. You can make both the carrots and sauce a day or two in advance and refrigerate them in separate tightly covered containers.

Hold off on adding the fresh herbs to the carrots until shortly before serving. The creamy tahini sauce is very versatile, so add it to your repertoire beyond this dish.

It can be thinned down to the consistency of a salad dressing and used on a strong-leaf salad (romaine and spinach) or left thick enough to be a sandwich spread or a dip.

Find a medium thickness and use it as a sauce for steamed vegetables.

This sauce may become a regular on your table. Another attribute of the sauce: It keeps for weeks in an airtight container in your refrigerator.

Marinated carrots with creamy tahini sauce

1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon minced or crushed garlic (or more, if desired)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

2 pounds carrots

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons finely minced flat-leaf parsley

3 scallions, very finely minced (whites and greens)

3 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves

Creamy tahini sauce (recipe follows)

Combine the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and cumin in a medium-large bowl and whisk until blended. Drizzle in the olive oil, still whisking. Add salt to taste and set aside. Meanwhile, put on a large pot of water to boil.

Peel or scrub the carrots and cut them into thin, flat matchstick pieces about 1½ inches long and 1/4 inch wide. (You can use baby carrots, which will make the peeling or scrubbing unnecessary — and the cutting easier.)

When the water boils, add the carrots and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for only about a minute (until tender-crisp), then drain into a colander in the sink. Refresh under cold running water for a minute or so, then drain again.

Transfer the carrots to the bowlful of marinade.

Mix well, taste to possibly adjust salt, and grind in some black pepper. Cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least several hours (and up to several days).

Shortly before serving, stir in the parsley, scallions and mint. Serve cold or at room temperature, topping each serving with a generous dollop of creamy tahini sauce. Makes 5 to 6 servings.

Creamy tahini sauce

3/4 cup sesame tahini

5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic

3/4 to 1½ cups water (depending on desired thickness)

½ teaspoon salt — or to taste (varies with amount of water used)

A handful of very finely minced fresh parsley

Cayenne to taste

Place the tahini, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. (You also can use a blender.) Begin to process.

Keeping the motor running, slowly drizzle in the water, checking every now and then to monitor the consistency.

When it is as thick as you want it, turn off the machine.

Transfer to a medium-small bowl or container, and season to taste with salt, parsley and cayenne. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready for use. Makes 1 to 2 cups (depending on how much water is added)

Mollie Katzen is the author of “Moosewood Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press). To contact her, go to www.molliekatzen.com.

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