Monday, February 20, 2012

Roasted Carrot and Sesame Pesto

While I have been talking and thinking about "In Defense of Food" in the last weeks, some amazing bloggers started the Food Matters Project. I missed the first two weeks because I was away and not cooking much, but now I'm back and ready to join in.

Right now I want to talk about our holidays to Spain. I have been to Spain before, but never to the south, (or the north, but we kept that for other holidays). We travelled by bus (30+ hours) to Granada. You may have seen pictures of the Alhambra before, but it was even more breathtaking when I saw it in 3-D for the first time. We loved this town, it is just beautiful.
It was cold, though. The funny thing about it is that it was about 15°C warmer than in Switzerland, but they arent used to cold winters in Spain, and without or only little heating it was really cold at night. 
We then travelled on to Cordoba and Seville, both equally amazing cities. The last few days we then spent close to the sea, hiking a day, relaxing more.

Regarding food, I'm always a bit disappointed when in Spain. There is an abundace of fresh produce available, even now in winter when I usually struggle with finding new ways to cook carrots and beets. But the Spanish Cocina somehow manages to fry everything in sight, and to not use the vegetables around.

I researched some veggie friendly restaurants before we went to Spain, but even then it was quite difficult to eat healthy, and not just Tortilla EspaƱola. There were some great thing, too, though. I really enjoyed the Tostada con Tomate as a breakfast (Toasted Bread with Tomato, I'll share a recipe when I find out how to do this with canned tomatoes, or in Summer). I loved the gazpacho, though it was not really in season right now (it's a summer soup) and the fresh orange juices. I loved the idea of eggplant with honey, but have to find a way to do it without having to fry the eggplant. I had a great Tuna Tataki with Quinoa in a restaurant in Cordoba, and all the rest we ate was not bad either, just not how I would cook with all this produce available.

Well, I'm back home and ready to incorporate some spanish flavours into my cooking. An idea for a vegtable-heavy paella is forming in my head, and I have some things written down I want to try out over the next weeks. But right now, I want to share with you what I did with this weeks recipe of the Food Matters Project. This weeks recipe of the Food Matters Project, a Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Pesto, was chosen by Heather from girlichef. I have made a similar spread or "pesto" before, and really loved it, but it is deep winter here in Switzerland now, so I wanted to change things up a bit. Well, a bit turned to quite a lot. My version of this pesto is Asian inspired, I guess I needed something different after a heavy dose of olive oil in Spain the last few days. Carrots are roasted with a few spices, then processed with sesame seeds and seasoned with soy sauce and mirin.

I used this pesto on top of a bowl of udon noodles (I would have used soba, but had none around), I guess you could use it as a dip or spread, too.

Roasted Carrot and Sesame Pesto
The original recipe can be found here,  and to check out the other takes on the recipe, go to the Food Matters Project blogpost.

6 Carrots
safran (I used two little sachets of 130mg)
1 tbsp olive oil

6 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin

Preheat the oven to about 100°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Peel the carrots and cut them into sticks. Put them in a mixing bowl, add the safran, the oil and some salt and coat them well with the seasoning. Place them on the baking tray and roast unitl they are tender, about 50 minutes or so.
Let the carrots cool down.
Heat a skillet on medium-high heat, and toast the sesame seeds for 3-5 minutes, until they are fragrant. Put the seeds in a food processor and process for a minute or two until they are ground coarsely. Add in the carrots and the oil, soy sauce and mirin. Process until smooth, or your desire consistency. I left it a bit chunky because I wanted to use it on pasta, but if you want to use this as a dip, process longer, and add more oil if necessary.

To serve as pasta sauce: Cook pasta according to the instruction on the package. Saute some spring onions in some sesame oil. Add a ladle of cooking water to the pesto. Serve the pesto on top of the noodles and sprinkle some of the spring onions on top.

Serves 4 (as pasta sauce).


  1. I absolutely adore your Asian spin on this! I can't wait to try this over some soba noodles!

  2. What a lovely twist! I never would have thought to use carrots in a pesto - but now I want to try it. Badly! Beautiful :D

  3. Carrot and sesame sound like a fantastic combination! I'm impressed by your dedication to winter vegetables. I have to admit that I bought some green peppers today. Thanks for sharing the pesto. It looks like a great way to get back into carrots.

    1. I guess if I hadn't been talking about it all the time, I would have bought some peppers, too. But it just felt so wrong now, I couldn't. That's a good thing, I suppose.

  4. I loved how you kept this recipe in season. It sounds delish!

  5. I really liked reading this post. I think I'm like you about Spanish cooking... I always want to get really into it and I have a couple cookbooks featuring it. But everytime I try to pick something out everything authentic seems deep-fried, and I am frankly too much of a wimp to heat up a pot of oil at home (not to mention the fact of consuming so much grease). I like how you got a lot of flavors from Spain though and incorporated them into your cooking at home. Maybe Spain in the summer would be different and feature more fresh ingredients?