Saving carrots from their usual sugary Easter fate

Associated Press photo by MATTHEW MEAD -- Lemony Carrot 'Fettuccine' With Toasted Walnuts takes advantage of the carrots' natural sweetness and texture. Show caption
Associated Press photo by MATTHEW MEAD -- Lemony Carrot 'Fettuccine' With Toasted Walnuts takes advantage of the carrots' natural sweetness and texture.

Though carrots often make it into the Easter feast lineup, I’ve never understood why. Maybe it’s a nod to the Easter bunny.

Typically, we glaze them and shovel on extra sugar.

I think I’ve figured out a way here to redeem them. The trick is to take advantage of their length and texture. Long, sturdy carrot peels are reminiscent of individual strands of fettuccine. So let’s prepare them as we would, say, a dish of fettuccine Alfredo — by dressing them with a creamy sauce.

Not coincidentally, it’s a strategy that also allows the carrot’s natural sugars — which are plenty sweet all by themselves — to shine.

Start with big, long, fat carrots. Peel off and discard the outermost layer, then continue peeling on all sides until you’ve reached the woody core. I find it easiest to start at the middle of the carrot and peel down the bottom half, then flip it over and peel the top half. The cores are too thin and hard to peel. You can munch on them or reserve them for a future stock.

The sauce for this “fettuccine” is based on Neufchatel, the French cream cheese, which miraculously provides the creaminess even though it possesses one-third less fat than most other types of cream cheese.

We counter-balance the carrot’s natural sweetness with lemon, both the zest and juice, though lime would work just as well. The walnuts add crunch, nutty taste and some nutrition, but any nut will do: pistachios, almonds, cashews.

The carrot fettuccine strands cook up inside of 5 minutes so you’ll want to prep them ahead of time, and measure out all the rest of the ingredients.

Once the carrot fettuccine is cooked, you need to dish it up before the strands go soft.

Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”

Lemony Carrot “Fettuccine” With Toasted Walnuts

Serves 4. Recipe is by Sara Moulton.

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 lbs. large carrots, peeled, stem ends discarded

11/4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided

1 tbl. grated lemon zest

Salt and ground black pepper

2 ozs. Neufchatel (low-fat cream cheese)

1 tsp. lemon juice

2 tbls. chopped fresh chives

1. Heat oven to 350 F.

2. In a shallow baking dish, spread walnuts in an even layer and bake on the oven’s middle shelf for 8-10 minutes, or until they smell fragrant. Remove and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, using a swivel blade or a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, peel carrots into long fettuccine-like strands, discarding the core (or saving it for a snack or a stock).

4. In a large skillet, combine 1 cup of chicken broth with the lemon zest, a hefty pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper. Whisk the mixture until the lemon is well distributed.

5. Cut the cheese into small pieces and add it to the skillet along with the carrots. Cover the skillet tightly and bring the broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the carrots, covered, for 3 minutes. Remove the lid, and stir the carrots gently with tongs to make sure the cheese is well distributed. Cover and simmer, adding the additional broth if the mixture seems dry, for another 1-2 minutes, or just until the carrots are tender.

6. Stir in the lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper. Divide the carrot “fettuccine” between 4 serving plates, then top with a quarter of the toasted walnuts and chives.

Nutrition information per serving: 200 calories (120 calories from fat = 60 percent of total calories); 13 grams fat (3 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 10 milligrams cholesterol; 18 grams carbohydrate (6 grams fiber; 12 grams sugar); 7 grams protein; 330 milligrams sodium.