Roasted Heirloom Carrot and Avocado Salad with Crème Fraîche and Crunchy Seeds

I promise I'll get to the salad, but you need to know something first. 

Heirloom seeds are my jam.  The idea that I can hold a seed from a plant that grew in a family garden hundreds of years ago sends me into a place of awe, gratitude and deep respect. This plant was loved so much that the seeds kept getting saved and passed down like a treasured photo through the family line.  Maybe it held well during winter or had the sweetest flavor.  Maybe the color was unusual or was able to thrive despite the lack of water.  Whatever it was - it was loved.  So when I plant these seeds in my own garden, I call in the people who grew them before me. I ask for an extra blessing for a good harvest, so that I might share in their same joy.

You can now imagine my jaw dropping delight, when I stepped into the holy grail of heirloom seeds, the Petaluma Seed Bank last year.  If just being in the place wasn't enough – it was in a real bank built in the 1920’s! This is where I found the seeds for the carrots used in this salad.  Don’t worry you don’t have to fly to Petaluma to get them – they offer online shopping.  If you do go – you should know they moved from this iconic location just down the street to a smaller storefront. I'm sad about it, but as long as they are still saving and selling over 1,500 heirloom seed varieties than I'm good!

Now for the carrots.  I used three heirloom varieties in the salad.  Parisienne, Cosmic Purple and Pusa Rudhira Red.  Parisienne because this Francophile will put anything in her garden from France and their petite round shape was intriguing.  Cosmic Purple because of the aubergine colored skin and radiant orange flesh and the Pusa Rudhira Red for the crimson skin and stunning patterned flesh.  They are all sweet and nutritionally packed - the Pusa Rudhira Red has very high levels of beta carotene and lycopene.

You don’t have to grow these heirloom carrots to make the salad. Though, maybe it will entice you to go to your local farmer’s market to see if you can find some colorful heirloom carrots or try a package of the multi colored carrots sold at Trader Joe's and neighborhood grocery store.

It’s fresh, it’s light and perfect for a summer bite! You can serve this alone as a salad for lunch or with a piece of grilled chicken or steak for dinner. The mélange of flavors from the orange, lemon and crème fraîche to the crunch of the carrots and toasted seeds will bring bliss to your belly!

Roasted Heirloom Carrot, Avocado Salad with Crème Fraîche and Crunchy Seeds

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 pounds (900g) small or medium sized carrots peeled and quartered if using large carrots

Kosher Salt

1 orange, one half juiced, the other left whole

1 lemon, one half juiced, the other left whole

½ cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds (not a fan of cumin, so I used a scant amount)

2 medium cloves garlic

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (lemon thyme is lovely, if you have it)

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use up to 1 teaspoon if you want more heat)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

1 avocado, peeled and cut into long wedges

2 cups (about 60g) arugula, microgreens or mixed baby herb greens

¼ cup (60g) crème fraîche

2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

 

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 450℉  (230℃) with rack in the center of the oven.

2. Place the carrots in a saucepan and cover them with cold water. Season with a few pinches of salt, set the pan over high heat, and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the carrots are fork tender about 10 minutes.  Drain the carrots and transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet.

3. Combine 1 teaspoon each of the orange and lemon juices, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the cumin, garlic, thyme, vinegar and red pepper flakes in a blender or NutriBullet® until smooth.  Season the marinade with  the salt and pepper to taste.  Add the marinade and un-juiced citrus halves to the carrots and toss with your hands until evenly combined.  Roast until the carrots are slightly shriveled with a few brown spots, about 20 minutes, tossing occasionally with a spatula to brown them evenly.  Allow carrots to cool to room temperature.

4. Once they’ve cooled slightly, squeeze the juice from the roasted citrus halves into a small bowl.  Add the remaining fresh citrus juices, and 4-6 tablespoons of olive oil and the honey.  Season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

5. Add a few tablespoons of dressing the greens and toss. Reserve the remaining dressing.

5. Divide the carrots and avocado slices among the four plates and top with the greens.  Add a dollop of crème fraiche to each salad.  Sprinkle sunflower and sesame seeds over each plate.  Drizzle a few tablespoons of dressing over around the salad and serve immediately.

*Note: I recommend using organic, in season and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.  I adapted this recipe from Genius Recipes Cookbook from Food52 – one of my fav places to go for all things delicious.  Thank you to my brother and sis-in-love for gifting me the book for my birthday last year