Rainbow Roots

Carrot Cake

Last Sunday was the return of Andy’s Burger Night, an annual mid-winter cookout held at Unity Nursery in Church Hill. Designed to showcase the abundance of local foods in winter, the event raised money for the agricultural program at Kent County high school. After getting frozen-out and snowed-out last year, everyone welcomed the 50F+ temperatures and feasted on three different grass-fed sliders, sides and desserts, all featuring ingredients from local farms.

Matt from Molly Mason’s worked the grill and I provided the sides and desserts. Purple and Fingerling Potato Salad, Local Greens Salad, Cole Slaw, Frittata with local kale, onions and eggs. I was happy with everything, but the things that seemed to get the most raves was my carrot cake. Vic Priapi from Priapi Gardens donated some of the most beautiful organic rainbow carrots I’ve ever worked with and Cedar Run provided the fantastic eggs. Based on a recipe I found in Saveur magazine, the mix of purple, orange and yellow carrots meant the cake didn’t have the distinct orange hue I usually associate with carrot cake, but the combination of the carrots, coconut and crushed pineapple made the cake moist and naturally sweet. So sweet in fact, that I cut back on the sugar in the original recipe.

I’m content to eat carrot cake plain or with a light dusting of confectioners sugar, but I know that for many, it’s not carrot cake if it’s not topped with swirls of cream cheese frosting, so I’ve included my favorite version of the recipe.

Amazing carrots of different colors from Priapi Gardens

Amazing carrots of different colors from Priapi Gardens

Carrot Cake

Makes about 12 servings

For the cake:

1-1/2 cups sugar

1-1/2 cups melted butter

3 eggs

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

8 ounces crushed pineapple (I like to take fresh pineapple and puree it in the blender, but canned is ok)

1-1/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut flakes

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups shredded carrot

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

¾ pound cream cheese

4 ounces (8 tablespoons) softened butter

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare the cake:

  1. Heat oven to 350F. Brush the sides and bottom of a 9” x 13” cake pan with melted butter and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Combine the sugar, melted butter and eggs in a bowl and whisk until evenly blended. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Add these dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir until just mixed. Add the pineapple, coconut, walnuts, vanilla and carrots and gently fold to combine.
  2. Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until the top springs back when pressed gently. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.

Prepare the Frosting:

  1. Combine the sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer and beat at medium speed until blended and fluffy.
  2. Spread the icing over the cooled cake.


Beet Salad


At this point in the summer, I find my CSA overrun with beets and carrots. While I love the depth of flavor and sweetness that comes from roasting both these vegetables, it still feels too hot to have the oven on for the hour or more they would take to cook.

This week I made a fresh, slaw-like salad using both vegetables. I was inspired by the flavors in the Russian Carrot Salad, called Morkovcha or Korean Carrot Salad that features fresh carrots, onions, raw garlic, coriander and cayenne. The traditional recipes I’ve seen usually add vinegar and sugar, but my farmer’s market carrots and beets have been so sweet, I didn’t think mine needed it. Next time, I may add a splash of local honey, if I find the salad needs it. Also, I like to use whole coriander seeds that I crush by hand. This, along with toasting them, gives them a fuller flavor and adds another layer of texture to the salad.

I know some people feel doomed to purple-stained hands when preparing raw beets. A trick I learned many years ago is to first run your hands under hot water, dry, then lightly rub them with oil (I like olive). Finish by running your hands under cold water. Your pores absorb the oil and prevent your hands from getting stained. After working with the beets, any purple on your hands will wash away. No gloves necessary!


Beet and Carrot Salad

Makes about 4-6 servings

1 large beet (about ½ pound), peeled and grated

2 medium carrots (about ½ pound), peeled and grated

1 teaspoon coriander seed

¼ cup olive oil

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons lemon juice

splash of honey, if desired

chopped parsley, if desired

salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine the grated beet and carrot in a small bowl. Toss gently and set aside.

2. Using a mortar and pestle or the side of a chef’s knife, crush the coriander seeds into small pieces. 

3. In a small saucepot or saute pan, gently warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the crushed coriander seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the seeds are fragrant and begin to crackle, about 1 minute. Add the cayenne pepper and onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook 2-3 minutes until the onions are limp and translucent. Set aside to cool briefly.

4. Add the minced garlic and lemon juice to the beet and carrot mixture. Pour the oil mixture over the salad. Season with salt and pepper, then toss gently to mix. Add the parsley and taste. Add the honey, if desired. Store in refrigerator for several hours before serving.