July 22, 2018

Middle Eastern Spiced Carrots with Yogurt and Pistachios

If you aren't aware, I study nutrition and dietetics. I'm at a children's hospital for the summer, and recently, I had the opportunity to observe a few feeding evaluations - what are they? 

If you've watched a cop show or are familiar with marketing, you might know of one-way mirrored observation rooms (you know, during interrogation or focus group scenes). The same room is used in a feeding evaluation, where the patient being observed is in the room, exposed to foods they like and foods they may have issues with. With a pediatric population, parents tend to be in the room with them, while the clinicians stand behind the glass window and watch how the patient reacts to the foods. Do they eat it? What faces are they making? Is the food visually overwhelming? Is there a common characteristic across the foods avoided? Does the patient have an aversion to texture?
The two evaluations I observed that day involved picky eaters, and unfortunately, they reminded me of myself. I like my vegetables and will try new things, but I have the palate of a five year old. I'm comfortable with what I like, and I often stick to 'em. I'd be more than happy to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, and hot chocolate for the rest of my life.

My selectivity wasn't much of an issue (Mom will beg to disagree) until I moved to college. Dining plans are no fun, but as much as I dislike them, eating in a dining hall day in and day out for three years forced me to try new things - a good thing.

I made friends with one of the dining hall chefs last year. I had been going to his dining hall almost exclusively; he knew how to run a kitchen, his menu items were eclectic, and his team clearly put more effort into delivering consistent food. This guy is way cool - he used to run a farm-based restaurant on a grain farm AND he made miso (from scratch!) using all sorts of farm-grown grains for the koji.

Like I said: way cool.

Sumac was one of the spices he introduced me to, and I've been toying with Middle Eastern flavors since. Sumac is a deep purple-red powder made by grinding the berries of a sumac bush. In my opinion, it's bright, lemony, and a bit earthy.

In this recipe, I've mixed it with other ingredients common to Middle Eastern food, like cilantro, cumin, pistachios, sesame, and yogurt, only adding a twist by using almond yogurt instead of the traditional dairy-based. The almond yogurt I used, from Kite Hill, is the closest tasting to any plain, dairy yogurt I've eaten. I've tried other soy, coconut, or almond based yogurts that taste good, but if you want something that tastes like plain, dairy yogurt, go for Kite Hill's!

Middle Eastern Spiced Carrots with Yogurt and Pistachios
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 pound of carrots (6-8 medium sized carrots), scrubbed and unpeeled*
2 tablespoons of olive oil
generous pinch of salt (to taste)
pinch of black pepper (to taste)
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of sumac
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric 
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of water

1/4 cup of shelled, raw pistachios
2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds**
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped or roughly torn
extra olive oil for drizzling

Preheat your oven to 400*F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (enough to wrap all of your carrots in). Mix the olive oil and salt, black pepper, cumin, sumac, and turmeric. Coat the carrots in the olive oil-spice mixture and arrange to lay them all flat on the foil. Sprinkle the garlic on top and drizzle in the water. Tightly wrap the carrots with the foil. 

Transfer the foil-wrapped carrots (on a baking sheet to catch drippings) to the oven. Roast for 25 minutes. Unwrap the carrots and bake for another 35 minutes, or until the carrots are tender, golden, and the skins are papery and crisp. 

Remove the carrots from the oven and wrap in the foil to steam for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the pistachios in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly fragrant. Transfer the pistachios to a clean kitchen towel and rub to remove the skins. Separate from their skins and roughly chop the pistachios. 

Before serving, dollop yogurt over the carrots. Lightly drizzle with extra olive oil and sprinkle the chopped pistachios, toasted sesame seeds, and cilantro over the carrots. 

*Go for organic, otherwise, peel them!
**If you're a bread baker, you know how sesame seeds fly everywhere when cutting into a freshly baked loaf. Save those toasted sesame seeds in a jar for future recipes like this!
***Coupon for Kite Hill products here!

FTC: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own. I was fortunate enough to collaborate with Kite Hill for this recipe. 

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