gingered carrots and fennel with orange yogurt sauce
I feel no need to bring in spring with fanfare this year. For me, spring is nothing more than a necessary but damp and awkward passageway of sore throats, watery eyes, and frizzled locks to what I’m waiting for: the real sun and the real heat of summer.
But I will admit that the strain of plucking a single flower, even a bunch, from the roots is far lighter than that of shoveling heavy, damp, packed snow; trekking through untamed city streets; and drying off cold, wet feet. It beats the clenching of knuckles and fists on the steering wheel, as they fight against sheer ice, and thick ice, and black ice, and wipeout-inducing ice. The warm scent of rain wins over that of the stagnant air inside the house. And the excited chirps of birdies back from vacation outweigh the grating sounds of the early morning plow trucks, signaling that is was not a good night.
But there’s no need to celebrate today. What does it matter if it’s still so cold that our hands are chapped, that our noses our persistently red, and that our wools and downs still reside at the front of our closets? What does it matter if we’re still cleaning up from another mess mother nature dropped on our doorsteps yesterday? What does it matter after you read the opening sentence of my “spring” post last year? (Spoiler alert: It was 81 degrees this time last year.)
It’s the Persian New Year today too, yet that also feels unreal. A holiday that so beautifully celebrates renewal and good fortune does not resonate with me today.
I hope this little side dish bridges the gap. It’s a transition dish if I’ve ever made one. It’s a marriage of the winter produce and flavors that are supposed to be going out of season and the spring produce that’s supposed to be coming into season. But they’re also ambiguous veggies, whose varieties are at their peaks at different points throughout the year. It’s a marriage of winter flavors — ginger (which I really utilize all year long, citrus, and, well, butter — and spring freshness. It uses cold-weather technique — braising and browning — on a quick, warm-weather time schedule.
But it’s so very simple that it helped me bridge the gap — to cope with March’s particular oddness this year.
So here’s to whatever today is…
Gingered Carrots and Fennel with Orange Yogurt Sauce
Serves 2-3 as a side dish
This is a casual recipe. When I tested it, I learned it is very much a “to your taste” recipe. Feel free to play with the amounts and types of flavorings.
2 tablespoons butter
12 ounces carrots, cut into 2 to 3 inch lengths, and halved lengthwise
1 large fennel bulb, halved, and sliced into 3/8-inch pieces plus 1 tablespoon chopped fronds
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, cut into 1/4-inch rounds plus 1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
1 cup water
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon orange juice
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or more depending on the consistency of your yogurt
½ teaspoon orange zest plus 1 tablespoon juice or more to taste
Salt and pepper
For the vegetables: Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in 12-inch straight-sided skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots and fennel (cut side of carrots down) and cook, without stirring, until the bottoms are browned, about 2 minutes. Using a metal fish spatula or other thin spatula, carefully turn vegetables and cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute longer. Scatter ginger rounds on top of vegetables. Whisk water, wine, orange juice, and honey together in bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour water mixture over vegetables and bring to boil; reduce to gentle simmer. Cover pan and cook until vegetables are tender but still maintain their integrity, about 20 minutes. (I was working with an unreliable stove; start checking at 15 minutes.)
For the sauce: Meanwhile, combine yogurt, oil, and orange zest and juice in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
Remove cover from pan and bring to boil over medium-high heat until liquid has evaporated. Carefully flip vegetables and cook until bottoms are browned, about 1 minute. Gently push vegetables to sides of pan. Melt remaining ½ tablespoon butter in center of pan. Add grated ginger, if using, and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Carefully toss vegetables to coat with butter and ginger. Redistribute vegetables in single layer once again and cook for 1 minute longer. Transfer vegetables to platter. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve with yogurt sauce.