Carrots & A Crush

Confession: I have a crush on Jamie Oliver. There, I said it. I adore his messy, disheveled blonde mop, I swoon over his Cockney accent, and I giggle at his cute lisp and his overuse of the words “brilliant” and “literally”. He is passionate about quality food and good eating habits, and uses his fame and his media power to share his mission worldwide. This is a crush that Hubs would probably approve of because 1) the man is happily married with umpteen children (Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo, Petal Blossom Rainbow and Buddy Bear – really, Jamie? …Really?), and 2) he’s a megawatt celebrity who lives on the other side of the planet, making him completely unattainable and inaccessible, ergo harmless.

I obsessively DVR Jamie’s show, Jamie at Home, on the Cooking Channel. The show takes place at Jamie’s “vegetable patch” (read: impossibly fertile and beautifully landscaped acreage, painstakingly tended to by his own private gardener), where Jamie whips up simple, rustic dishes using a variety of fruit and vegetables grown in his own soil, and offers tips about growing your own home garden.

Garden Basil & Mint

In a rare moment of downtime last weekend, I was able to park it on the couch for an episode. This one was dedicated solely to carrots and beets, both of which are in season this time of year. Among other beautiful creations, Jamie made an Indian carrot salad, which he deemed “a brilliant snack that would go perfectly with a pint”: thinly shaved carrots with herbs in a cumin and lemon dressing, piled on a bed of crispy fried ground lamb, served up with pillowy naan bread. This dish is what I think of as classic Jamie Oliver style: rustic-bordering-on-crude, messy, piled high, fresh and colorful. Oh, and lip-smacking delicious.

CSA Ground Pork

Our last CSA share of the season included a virtual mother lode of fresh pork. Among the cuts was a generous helping of ground pork, which I thought would substitute nicely for the lamb. I also wanted desperately to use the smoked paprika I’d brought back from DC, which purchase finally ended my yearlong search for the elusive spice (well, elusive in this neck of the woods, anyway). The ground pork cooked up beautifully, browning and crisping to just the right texture.

I also thought I’d add a little more color and flair to the salad, considering I didn’t have the multicolored carrots Jamie had. (Worth noting, though: I have some beautiful purple dragon carrots growing in our fall garden as I type!) I figured radishes would add some colorful crunch, as would apples – along with a little sweetness. Thinly slicing radishes and apples can be a tedious thing, so I broke out my handy dandy mandolin to make things a cinch. If you don’t have one of these gadgets, it’s one I highly recommend, as long as you watch those fingertips with an eagle eye!

Meyer Lemon & Garlic

The salad came together in no time, and the addition of basil and mint from the garden added more flavor AND color for an extra pop. After a quick toss with my hands (a cook’s most valuable tool, you know), I piled the colorful ribbons on top of a heap of crispy pork, and sprinkled the whole thing with crunchy little sesame seeds. With warm, soft naan alongside, this was indeed a brilliant light lunch. The garam masala and smoked paprika added an exotic, smoky flavor to the crispy pork, which went perfectly with the cumin in the crunchy carrot salad. For a little extra love, add a dab of plain yogurt or sour cream for dipping. As I always say, feel free to play with the ingredients to make it your own. Enjoy!

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Carrot Salad with Fried Pork

Download this recipe

1 1/4 lb. ground pork
2 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled
1/2 lb. radishes, sliced thinly
1 apple, sliced thinly
small bunch of basil, leaves picked
1 Tbs. sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste
Naan bread, to serve alongside

For the dressing:
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Frying the Ground Pork

For the salad dressing, combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shake vigorously. Set aside.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and fry the ground pork until all the fat is rendered, draining off any extra liquid as necessary. Cook until the pork is deeply browned and crispy. Add the garam masala, smoked paprika and a generous pinch of salt, and cook for about a minute more. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Apples, Carrots & Radishes

Shave the carrots into long strips using a vegetable peeler. Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice the radishes and apple thinly. Combine the carrots, radishes and apple in a large mixing bowl, and add the basil and mint. Pour the dressing over the salad and use your hands to gently toss everything together.

Using the fried pork as a bed for your salad, place a good handful of the salad over top. Top with sesame seeds, and serve with warmed naan bread.

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Laura Hobbs is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, see her author page or visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook.