Monday, September 23, 2013

Carrots in a Gentle Sauce

Desdemona’s domestic partner here, stepping in for a guest post. It’s been a delicious pleasure following her adaptations of classic hippie cookbook favorites this month; even as an omnivore (and world-ranked cheese enthusiast) back in the day, I found the gut-bombing quantity of dairy in many of those vegetarian recipes somewhat alarming. Eating the veganized results of MoFo 2013 has been even more fun.

I am blessed to have twin daughters, now 20, who have been vegetarian since they were 10. If you do some higher math, you’ll find they’ve been veg for half of their young lives – how about that? And why did they do it? Because they didn’t want to eat animals, that’s why. At that time, their mother and I were omnivores, and although we respected their ethical commitment, we worried that their diet wouldn’t give them the nutrition they needed (this was especially true of one daughter who was a pretty picky eater; I well remember leaning on her to eat the occasional piece of fish to keep herself alive). But neither kid ever budged in the slightest, and their health never suffered for the lack of anything that didn’t go into their growing bodies. When I look back now and think of all the years they quietly, patiently stuck to their ethical guns while I stubbornly and happily refused to examine where my own food came from or what it meant (and made tired old jokes like “I’m a vegetarian who makes an exception for meat!”), I feel somewhat abashed, but mostly proud to have such smart, thoughtful, grounded children. As teenagers, they followed Desdemona and me on our happy herbivorous path, and are now well-informed, cheerfully non-preachy vegans; the kind you’d love to invite to a party. They inspired us and we inspired them, and that’s a two-way generational bond that remains deep and strong.

Anyway, what ultimately made their vegetarian ways healthier, happier, and more sustainable was their increasing interest in preparing food: they really grew up in the kitchen, marrying their beliefs with the creativity, fun, and generosity of spirit that make for great cookery and fond table fellowship with family and friends. For a number of years, we spent summers in a beautiful sublet in the Bloor/Dufferin area of Toronto, with thousands of books, about 200 plants, a pair of eccentric cats, skylights, and a third-floor loft kitchen with an island counter, skylights, and lots of trees around to keep us company. In the backyard were some truly feral blackberry bushes from which we made quantities of cobblers when the berries ripened in August. Our favorite activities were reading, modeling Sculpey clay, making Shrinky Dinks, going to the splendid community park at the end of the block (where we splashed in the "pee pool," jumped around on the climbing equipment, and dug bottle caps out of the dirt), buying silly things in the dollar store in the mall across the street, and cooking.

Our two go-to cookbooks at the time were by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson, who beautifully adapted vegetarian fare for children: Pretend Soup (for preschoolers and up) and Honest Pretzels (for ages 8 and up), both of which provided some repeatable favorites as well as seemingly endless new opportunities for kitchen adventures. So one night when we needed a side dish for barley risotto, I thought immediately of “Carrots in a Gentle Sauce,” one of the delightfully simple concoctions from Pretend Soup. We don't have the book here, and there were no previews available online, but a few texts to the girls established its essential ingredients, and the results were as pleasing as I remembered. So whether you are helping children learn to cook, looking for something simple to accompany a meal, or just trying to use up some carrots, enjoy this adaptation of a blast from my family’s past.

Carrots in a Gentle Sauce
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance
~ 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 lb carrots, sliced on the diagonal 1/4" thick
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, tarragon
~ 1 cup "no chicken" broth
~ Juice of 1 large orange

~ In a large, deep skillet, melt the margarine and sauté the garlic over medium heat for about two minutes.
~ Add the carrots, salt, marjoram, and tarragon; stir to coat, and continue cooking for a few minutes more.
~Add the orange juice and broth, mix thoroughly, and cover the pan. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender, stirring occasionally.
~ Remove the lid, raise the heat to high, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring, until the liquid has reduced to form a glaze.
~ Serve hot to hungry people and/or bunnies, big and small .


  1. This sounds super tasty! The name is great too, although it does remind me of a translation gem spotted on a menu in St Petersburg: "gentle cutlets of cock". Pardon my Russian.

  2. "Thanks, but I think I'll just have a vodka tonic."