Because it's a pain in the butt to find me on the Boston Globe website.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

What's up, doc? Carrot-centric dishes

The Inside Scoop: Keeping up with my tradition of picking the absolutely hardest foods on the planet to find, I picked carrots this week. The Indian dish was really, really good. But I had to go to two restaurants to find a good one, as the first restaurant's version tasted like shoe leather. The chocolate carrot cake was really a disappointment, though I didn't write that. The problem was you could barely even see the carrot shards, let alone taste them. But I really liked the baker and his tiny shop, so I kept it in there. Plus, it was different, albeit only in name. Common Ground was out there - something out of Lord of the Rings. I had no idea it was run by a religious group. Their pizza looked good. Alas, no carrot pizza.

TABLE HOPPING, April 9, 2006

In honor of the Easter Bunny, this week's Table Hopping is all about -- you guessed it -- carrots. Sure, they make your eyesight better. But carrots are also an extremely versatile cooking ingredient, present in soups, sweets, salads, stir-frys, breads and many more dishes. Bushy tail or not, the following carrot-centric dishes should impress.

Gandhi Restaurant
704 Mass Ave., Cambridge

Natives of India's Panjab region refer to gajaar ka halwa as carrot cake, but it's really more like a warm and moist carrot brownie. The dessert is hard to find in Boston, but Jarnel Singh, head cook at Gandhi in Central Square for more than 20 years, makes it just right. Pouring shredded carrots, spices, and milk into a saucepan, he adds in minced pistachios, almonds, cashews, and Indian pistachios (they're long and brown) for a nutty flavor. Sugar and ghee make the brownies sweet and almost creamy. I might have ordered seconds were it not so rich ($2.50).

Well, Well, Well . . .
23 Dartmouth St., Boston

''An experiment that worked" is how Well, Well, Well . . . owner Cornelia Hoskin describes organic carrots marsala, one of a few dozen gourmet frozen meals available at her South End takeout store. Cooking up fresh carrots from Busa Farm in Lexington, she drenches them in marsala wine, adds fresh black pepper, kosher salt, and a bit of onion and sugar, then flash freezes them. ''It just sort of sprung from chicken marsala," she says about her sweet side dish. ''You're wondering, 'Hmm . . . what would marsala go well with?' " Regulars pair an order ($9.99) with lemon broccoli chicken, lime cilantro swordfish kebabs, or veggie Barcelona, another homemade, carrot-laden dish.

New England Soup Factory
2-4 Brookline Place, Brookline Village

Marjorie Druker likes lots of foods, but she worships carrots. ''Some people may think of them as a mundane, everyday vegetable. But really, they're like royalty," says the Soup Factory's head chef and owner. Her carrot, honey, and ginger soup, introduced Friday, is simply regal. Made with crème fresh, ''the jaguar of sour cream," she says, the dish is zesty, almost like a yellow curry, but far smoother. Druker makes several carrot soups throughout the year, including carrot and roasted leek, but this one's her favorite. ''Carrots and honey together -- it's like saying peanut butter and jelly," she gushes ($5.50/pint).

Sweet Finnish
761 Centre St., Jamaica Plain

Flecks of carrots add both color and taste to Sweet Finnish's ''porkkanaleipa," the tongue-twisting Finnish name for carrot bread. ''We're big on big words," jokes Ulla Monestime, a Finnish native who opened her Internet bakery café on bustling Centre Street two years ago. Made with oats and wheat flour, porkkanaleipa is a hardy but tasty bread, and, well, slightly unusual. Monestime credits her mother with the recipe, noting that carrot bread is common across Finland. Request it in one of Sweet Finnish's turkey or ham sandwiches, or, for $5, try a loaf.

Blue Frog Bakery
3 Green St., Jamaica Plain

Brad Brown bakes a classic carrot cake in his tiny side-street bakery, but his chocolate carrot cake is what turns heads. ''We're the only people I know of who make it," says the Toronto native, who brought the recipe with him from Canada. ''People have been making chocolate cake with (a variety of) things for a long time. My mom made chocolate zucchini cake. Anything to make the cake more moist." Brown's triple-layer chocolate carrot cake is heavy on the chocolate and light on the carrots. Still, the little orange shreds leave a nice carrot aftertaste.

Common Ground
2243 Dorchester Ave.,Dorchester Lower Mills

Vitamins practically coursed through my veins as I slurped a glass of freshly squeezed carrot juice from Common Ground's juice bar one afternoon last week. The yummy frosted carrot cake I had for dessert wasn't nearly as nutritious, but, seeing as how it was made with organic carrots, organic flour and honey instead of sugar, my guilt was kept to a minimum. ''We serve things that are wholesome," says manager Nezer Aldokhi. Even Common Ground's pizzas, made with easy-to-digest spelt crust, have a healthy flair to them.



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