“Do you want me to remove your carrot tops?” asked the woman checking my groceries. I looked at her a bit confused, admitting no one had ever asked me that before. She offered again to simply twist them off and throw them away, but I quickly answered “Thank you, but no.”
I was like a kid who didn’t want a toy until someone else picked it up. I wanted those carrot tops! After getting home, I unpacked my purchases and pondered my tops. It didn’t feel right just to chuck them, after I had made such a stand at the store. The plan for dinner was a slow roasted porketta with carrots and rutabaga. I had also grabbed a bundle of skinny asparagus, and I now eyed them carefully. Carrot tops were going to fit in somewhere, I could feel the idea brewing.
I grabbed my processor and threw a big handful of pine nuts in the toaster oven. In the processor went three cloves of garlic, a rough chop of all the tops, a few sprigs of fresh mint and a few leaves of thyme, salt, pepper, and a generous amount of olive oil. After the pine nuts finished toasting, I threw them in and tasted my creation. It was what the color green should taste like – herbal with a slight bite, a zing of bitterness with a wallop of garlic. Carrot top pesto?
I have a giant jar of preserved lemons in my fridge I’ve been holding on to for over a year. I sliced one and preheated a cast iron skillet. In went a little oil, some sliced brown mushrooms, the preserved lemon, and the asparagus. On top went a healthy spoonful of carrot top pesto, mixing with all the flavors.
This was the best surprise sauce I’ve made in a while. Not only did I slather more on my asparagus, I heaped it on slices of porketta, using it as a sort of chimichurri. Today I mixed it into my homemade salad dressing, tossing it with romaine and grilled chicken. I even contemplated using it as dip for crudité.
If I can offer one piece of advice, it’s this:
Never throw away carrot tops again!