carousing with carrot tops

After the second warmest April since 1900, cooler weather has blown in...
According to Catherine Roussel, at the Clos Roche Blanche winery in the Touraine, whom I visited a few weeks ago, a warm and sunny April can bring about les mauvaises surprises (unpleasant surprises) in May... She was alluding to the Saints de Glace (Ice Saints), a climatological period in mid-May when temperatures can fall to chilly degrees. In the Middle Ages medieval feast days were celebrated during this time and those working the land would call upon the various saints - Mamertus, Pancrus, Servatius, Boniface, Yves, and Bernardino - after which the feast days were named, to guard their crops from a cold  snap and possible early morning frost (a phenomenon called la lune rousse (Pink Moon), the lunar phase following Easter, when clear night skies carry the risk of frost which, burning newly emerging shoots, turns them red). Catherine mentioned an old saying I was unfamiliar with:  "s’il gèle à la Saint-Bernardin, adieu le vin," (if it frosts on San Bernardino, say goodbye to the vino). San Bernadino Day is on May 20, after which the risk of frost passes... so just a couple more days of breath holding.

Now I had a bunch of very fresh carrots with very fresh tops I bought at the marché  the other day...  off and drop them in the trash—such a waste—I thought of making a carrot-top pesto, a little green soup. But being that I had planned on making some ravioli dough - still learning the secrets of ravioli making - I thought it might be interesting to make a filling with the bushy green things.... which is exactly what I did, and was quite pleased with the results. So I thought I'd share them with you  (way down below...)

Speaking of throwing food away, I'm sure many of you are aware of the recent FAO study on food waste: about one third of the food produced worldwide each year - some 1.3 billion tons - is lost or wasted! Partially through inefficient processing, but much by our own hands - particularly fresh fruits and vegetables. You can read the full text Global Food Losses and Food Waste.
I always try to find ways of using as much of the fresh produce or product I'm working with as possible... when I think of the beet greens that are sheared off by vendors at the request of their clients ...Cooked till slightly wilted, rapidly sautéed with a bit of garlic then seasoned with a pinch of good sea salt, a twist of the pepper grinder, a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of the zest, they are simply one of spring's culinary delights, and might I say extremely nourishing - full of all sorts of those "oids," "enes,"  "ains,"and "ants."

Here are a few of the things I do to get the most out of the Earth and keep my waste down:
— I never throw the rind of lemons away; before juicing, I peel them and use them for zest - with my might Microplane - perhaps later in the day or the following day or two (they'll keep nicely for 2 - 3 days in an air-tight jar in the fridge), or make curlicues out of them. Or I collect them, along with my orange or grapefruit rinds, which I never throw away either, put them in the fridge in an air-tight glass jar until I have a nice little pile of them  (they'll remain fresh for 4 - 5 days in the fridge) then make up a batch of candied peels.

— A friend in Paris introduced me to this: always pass the strained cooked vegetables from your homemade broth or stock through a food mill instead of throwing them away. Served heated up with a splash of water or broth, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of good sea salt, and a twist of the pepper grinder makes for a great quick soup.

— I often make fresh almond milk, and after squeezing the milk through a porous linen (or muslin) towel, there's always that nice ball of dry pulp or meal left in the towel. I spread it out thin on a large baking sheet or pan and if it's warm outside, set in the hot sun until it dries ( a few hours), stirring it up from time to time. If there's no sun, I put it in an oven warmed to 80 ˚C (175 ˚F), leaving the door ajar, and cook until dried out (1 - 2 hours), stirring from time to time and being careful not to let them brown. I then put the dried meal in a chopper and grind it up fine. It can then be used as a substitute for bread crumbs, or added to a pastry dough, or... I've kept if for up to a month in an air-tight jar in the fridge.

— If you have a large freezer, which I don't, throw all your skins and peels and parings into Ziploc bags and toss them into that cold space. When you have a sufficient amount, spend the morning making a big batch of vegetable broth, adding all the parings - it will certainly give you a robust stock. You can then freeze it in quart size jars, defrost and dilute with water or boil to reduce, and make up a scrumptious risotto or soup.

— All the fresh green tops of radishes, beets, turnips, carrots, fennel - wild or tamed, etc. (especially in spring) can all be used in any variety of ways: made into a pesto; lightly wilted and sautéed

— And when I can't think of anything else to do with my parings, I cut them up into small pieces and compost them... I'm lucky to be a member of a neighborhood garden in  Paris where I have a compost bin.

Yes, it all takes time, thought and organization, but what a rewarding way to go full circle with your kitchen activities.

By the way, it was International Compost Awareness Week at the beginning of May!) Here are some good reasons to start composting and some basic information about food waste.

Now on to the carrot-top ravioli recipe..... of course you'll need a kitchen scale. (I should start a campaign : a scale in every American kitchen!)  Photo of recipe above.

CARROT-TOP RAVIOLI - serves 4 - 6

for the ravioli dough :
300 gr /10 oz unbleached flour
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

for the filling :
150 gr / 5.5 oz young fresh organic carrot tops
120 gr / 4.5 oz fresh smallish carrots, sliced paper thin and halved if rather large - should be the size of a dime)
120 ml / 4.5 oz goat's milk yogurt
100 gr / 3.5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
1 large garlic clove, peeled and left whole
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Unrefined sea slat

for the sauce :
100 gr / 8 tBsp unsalted butter
100 g / 8 tBsp extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 - 2 organic lemons, the peel scrubbed and dried
Handful roasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Pour the flour onto a dry work space. Make a large well in the middle with a dough scrapper. Add the eggs one at a time, the olive oil, and a good pinch of sea salt.
 Gently break the egg yolks then gradually begin stirring in the flour from around the edge of the well, without breaking it.
When enough of the flour has been incorporated to keep the eggs from running, use the dough scrapper to continue adding flour.
As the dough begins to take form, start kneading it with your hands. You'll have to gauge when you've incorporated enough flour: the dough should no longer be sticky but remain supple - too much flour and you'll have a dry, stiff dough. Don't worry if there's flour left over. Sift out any crusty pieces and set aside for dusting while rolling out the dough. (It might take a few tries to get the dough down.)
Form the dough into a somewhat long roll and holding the end closest to you with one hand start folding and kneading the other end inward until you reach your other end. Now it should be longer crosswise, so turn the dough and repeat the process, kneading for a couple minutes.
Form into a ball. Place in a covered container or cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
In the meantime make the filling :
Wash and dry the carrot tops. Remove the  leaves from the stems and coarsely chop. Cook them in a skillet with water to cover the bottom of the pan over medium heat for a couple of  minutes, stirring frequently, then remove them. Wipe out the skillet. Put a generous drizzle of olive oil in the pan. Add the whole garlic clove and cook over medium-low heat until turning golden. Remove the garlic clove (instead of tossing it, eat it...) and add the carrot slices. Cook over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Return the carrot tops to the skillet and cook  for another couple of minutes. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the goat's milk yogurt and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and begin rolling it out. Dust both sides of the dough then fold one end over your rolling pin and roll forward over the dough, pressing your hands outward toward the ends of the rolling pin.
  Continue dusting and turning as you go...
The dough should be quite thin and have the same thickness everywhere. If not, roll it out where it seems thicker.
Now cut the dough into 2 or 4 equal pieces (keep the pieces you're not working with covered with a linen towel so they don't dry out).
Put a small spoonful of the  filling at intervals of 1-inch, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Center a second piece of dough on top and begin firmly pressing down with the flat of your finger the length of the dough between the filling, then crosswise, and finally around the edges, trying to remove all the air. If the edges are a becoming dry, wet your finger with a a bit of beaten egg and wipe along them. Take a small fluted pastry wheel and cut around each ravioli (each should be about 5 cm / 2 inches square). Dust with flour so they don't stick together.
Bring a large covered pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of coarse sea salt.

While the water is heating, heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet over low heat. Add the lemon zest and a pinch of sea salt.

Drop the ravioli in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place immediately in soup plates. Generously spoon the sauce over each plate. Garnish with the roasted walnuts and a twist of the pepper grinder. You can place a bowl of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the table for people to pass around.

That was long... Finished. Enjoy!

By the way, if you don't want or have time to make the pasta, you can use won ton wrappers.


  1. Those look beautiful

  2. Great tips on what to do with leftover scraps! I hate waste, too, and I'm going to start stuffing my freezer full of the unused veg bits for stock right now! Thanks so much for an inspiring post. The ravioli sounds wonderful, by the way.

  3. mikemillerMay 19, 2011

    yummy! i love your blog, teresa! i hope you are well and happy. best, mike miller

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