In case you haven’t noticed, I love cooking with carrots. They’re delicious, packed with nutrients, and super versatile. You can enjoy them raw, roasted, grilled, steamed, or fried, they’re at home in a multitude of cuisines, and the entire plant – including the leafy top – is edible. Whole roasted carrots make for a simple, elegant, and tasty side, but sometimes I like to move them to center stage and build a dish around them, which is precisely how I developed this wonderful recipe. With lovely peak-season zucchini, a creamy pesto-spiked yogurt sauce, and crispy spiced lentils, it’s an irresistible symphony of textures and flavors that will have you coming back for bite after savory bite.
Lentils get a lot of play in my kitchen, and their inherent earthy flavor is a terrific match for the sweetness of the roasted vegetables. I had the urge to transform the lentils into something unexpected for this dish so I cooked them twice for a textural twist. After a standard simmer, I tossed them with seasonings and roasted them until they became delightful little nuggets of spicy crunch. They’re a fabulous contrast to the tender vegetables and creamy sauce.
Speaking of sauce, this one rocks. I’ve featured carrot tops in pesto before, and I love pairing carrot top pesto with actual carrots. Since I also love yogurt with carrots, I figured why not combine them? The result is a winner – creamy, tangy, herbaceous, cooling, and seriously addictive.
This recipe is pretty straightforward so I’m not going to walk you through it step by step. Use the photos for visual cues, and if you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments. Enjoy!
- For Lentils:
- 4 oz (½ cup) dried black, brown or green lentils, rinsed and picked over
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1 medium clove garlic, lightly crushed
- 1 small bay leaf
- Water or stock
- 5 ml (1 tsp) sherry vinegar
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt
- For Vegetables:
- 1 ½ lbs bunched small carrots¹, scrubbed, greens reserved²
- 2 lbs zucchini or yellow squash, cut lengthwise into spears³
- 25 ml (5 tsp) extra virgin olive oil
- 15 ml (1 Tbsp) sherry vinegar
- 15 ml (1 Tbsp) honey
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- Several grinds black pepper
- 1 ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
- ⅛ tsp cayenne
- ¼ tsp ground sumac
- For Yogurt Pesto:
- 1 cup tightly packed carrot top fronds
- 1 medium garlic clove, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1 oz (scant ¼ cup) toasted pistachio kernels, roughly chopped
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ⅓ cup tightly packed mint, coarsely chopped
- 1 oz sheep’s milk feta or dairy-free alternative
- 2 oz (4 Tbsp) plain yogurt⁴
- 60 ml (¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
- Cold water as needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For Garnish:
- 1 oz sheep’s milk feta or dairy-free alternative, crumbled
- Chopped mint, parsley, or carrot fronds
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Cook lentils: In a small saucepan over high heat, combine lentils, salt, garlic, clove, bay leaf, and enough water or stock to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to bare simmer, and cover partially with a lid. Cook until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
- While lentils are simmering, roast vegetables: Spread carrots on one large sheet pan, and zucchini on another. In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, thyme, salt, pepper, coriander, paprika, Aleppo flakes, and cayenne. Drizzle over vegetables and toss or rub to coat.
- Transfer vegetables to oven, and roast zucchini for 15-20 minutes and carrots for 25-30 minutes, turning or stirring occasionally. When done, vegetables will be golden brown in some spots, zucchini will be soft, and carrots will be easily pierced with the tip of a knife (but not mushy).
- Once cooked, set vegetables aside to cool slightly, then toss with sumac.
- While vegetables are roasting, make yogurt pesto: Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a simmer, and prepare an ice bath. When water is simmering, blanch carrot tops (or parsley) for 10-15 seconds until bright green. Drain and immediately transfer to ice bath. Cool blanched greens in ice bath for about 3 minutes, then drain well, squeezing out as much moisture as possible.
- Coarsely chop drained greens and add to food processor with garlic, lemon zest, pistachios, salt, parsley, feta, yogurt, and olive oil. Process until uniform, and drizzle in cold water or additional olive oil one tablespoon at a time to achieve desired consistency.
- Roast lentils: Reduce oven temperature to 400°F. Drain lentils well, and discard garlic and bay leaf. Toss lentils with olive oil, vinegar and seasonings, spread onto a sheet pan in a single layer, and transfer to oven. Roast, stirring occasionally, until lentils are dry and crunchy and begin to pop, 15-20 minutes.
- Serve: Spread some yogurt pesto on a serving platter, and top with vegetables. Scatter lentils over vegetables, drizzle everything with more yogurt pesto, and garnish with crumbled feta and chopped herbs or carrot fronds.
² If carrots did not come with their tops attached, substitute Italian (flat-leaf) parsley.
³ Zucchini cooks more quickly than carrot, and it shrinks considerably as it loses moisture. I recommend cutting the spears at least as thick as the carrots, or even a bit thicker.
⁴ I recommend reduced- or full-fat Greek yogurt for this, as the fat free stuff can be dry and chalky. If you’re substituting a non-dairy alternative or a regular style (not Greek) yogurt, you probably won’t need to add any water.