It appeared mysteriously spartan on the menu at Coi, Daniel Patterson's ashram for food in San Francisco's North Beach: "Carrots/Coffee." What did it mean? It turned out to be genius--sweet, smoky, and earthy genius. Pencil-thin carrots are baked on a bed of coffee beans that warm gently, releasing their oils. This unexpected dish celebrates all the advantages of slow cooking: the coffee fumes gradually infuse the vegetables, creating an ephemeral sensation of something roasted that one can identify as "coffee" only after the tongue whispers to the brain.
- 1 lb/455 g thin carrots (no thicker than 1/2 in/12 mm in diameter), peeled
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- Coarse sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 cup/90 g medium-roast coffee beans, preferably decaf
Preheat the oven to 225°F/110°C/gas 1/4. Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat to heat for about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the carrots, olive oil, and garlic and toss until the carrots are slicked with oil and the garlic bits are distributed evenly. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
Add the coffee beans to the hot skillet and remove from heat. Shake until the coffee is aromatic and the beans look a bit oily, about 3 minutes. Scatter the carrots over the beans in a single layer and cover the pan with a lid or a sheet of heavy-duty alumi¬num foil. Bake until the carrots are fork-tender and infused with coffee oil, 2 to 3 hours.
Lift the carrots from the bed of coffee beans and serve immediately. Discard the coffee.
Store: for up to 3 days, covered in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in a low oven.