Recently, I conducted an informal poll, asking a dozen or so people what comes to mind when they think of carrots. Bunnies and celery were often mentioned, but so was good eyesight.
Growing up, I had poor eyesight that, over the years, deteriorated to legal blindness. I recall a stage where I snacked heavily on carrots, taking quite literally what all kids seem to learn early on–that these orange root veggies are good for one’s eyes.
Though my vision was bad—I couldn’t even see the chart on the wall, let along the big “E”–it was correctable. A procedure 10 years ago even allowed me to get rid of the hard lenses on which I relied. Driving home from the hospital with my husband, I cried because I could read the license plate on the car in front of us. Overnight, I woke him to tell him it was 1:22. I was thrilled that I could see the numbers on my digital alarm clock from several feet away.
Perhaps I slacked off on my carrot consumption, because the vision in one of my eyes took a nosedive in the last year or so. The problem is correctable through surgery, which I will have soon. To give my eyes some extra rest, I’m taking next week off. In the meantime, I thought it seemed fitting to share a carrot recipe!
For the record, carrots won’t improve the visual acuity of those with less-than-perfect eyesight. No amount of carrots will obliterate the need for glasses or erase a cataract. They do, however, contain high levels of beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A. Vitamin A, in turn, is considered an important nutrient to eye health.
Cooked carrots historically get a bad rap. In some ways they deserve it. Cooked carrots are considered by many to be, at best, a mushy way to get a serving of veggies. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
As a newlywed, I adapted this colorful recipe from a cookbook published by The Junior League of Austin, Texas. Now, I have two teenage boys who truly enjoy these zippy carrots.
This pretty orange side dish complements a variety of main dish proteins, though the zing from the horseradish makes it particularly well suited to beef, whether your favorite grilled steak or your mom’s best meatloaf. Excellent gluten-free cracker options are widely available, so this dish need not be off-limits to those for who cannot consume gluten.
Yields 4 to 6 servings.
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups peeled and thickly sliced carrots (I like to cut on the diagonal)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons grated or minced onion
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup crushed butter-flavored or stone-ground crackers (or gluten-free equivalent)
- 2 teaspoons melted butter or olive oil
- Optional: minced fresh parsley or dill for garnish
In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, onion, horseradish, salt, and pepper. Set aside. (This mixture may be prepared 1 to 2 days in advance, covered, and refrigerated.)
Cook the carrots in a covered saucepan in a small amount of water until they are crisp-tender. (Taste them to make sure–this is the best way to avoid mushy carrots.) Drain the carrots well, and return to the pan. Stir the horseradish mixture into the carrots, tossing to evenly coat. Transfer the carrots to a lightly greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. (A small casserole or an 8-inch square baking dish work well.)
Mix the crushed crackers with the 2 teaspoons melted butter or oil. Sprinkle evenly over the carrot mixture. At this point, the carrots may sit on the counter for up to 2 hours before baking. You may also cover and refrigerate. In this case, I like to add the cracker crumbs just before baking and allow the carrots to sit at room temperature while the oven is preheating.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, uncovered, for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through. If you’d like the cracker crumb topping to brown a little more, briefly broil the carrots, watching very carefully so as not to burn. Garnish with a light sprinkle of fresh parsley or dill, if desired.