While carrots are available 365 days a year, they especially shine in the spring, at their peak season. This recipe brings them to the center of your plate. Carrots are roasted in a brown butter sauce enhanced with floral saffron and piled atop creamy, soft, and tangy labneh, a Middle Eastern yogurt cheese. A handful of chopped fresh parsley and sweet toasted hazelnuts tie it all together. Definitely serve this platter with crusty bread or pillowy pita so you can swipe it clean.
Labneh is made by straining whole-milk plain yogurt until it’s even thicker than Greek yogurt and closer to the consistency of cream cheese. While it was once hard to find outside of Middle Eastern markets, you’ll now find it at some Whole Foods and other well-stocked grocery stores. Otherwise, you can make it quite easily yourself by simply straining Greek yogurt.
2 pounds carrots
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1⁄4 teaspoon saffron threads
Juice of 1⁄2 medium lemon (about 1 1⁄2 tablespoons)
Freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup raw hazelnuts 1 1⁄2 cups labneh
Chopped fresh parsley, for serving
Flaky sea salt, for serving
ARRANGE 2 RACKS to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 425°F.
Peel and trim the carrots. I love leaving the carrots whole, since fresh spring carrots tend to be smaller than the year-round carrots you find in bags at the grocery store, but if the carrots you’re using are quite long and you prefer, cut them in half crosswise. If they are more than 1 inch in diameter, cut them in half lengthwise. Place on a rimmed baking sheet; set aside.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the saffron and continue cooking, swirling the pan occasion- ally, until the butter has a nutty aroma and is a toasty-brown color, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, carefully add the lemon juice (it will spatter) and a pinch of kosher salt, and stir to combine, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Drizzle half of the saffron butter sauce over the carrots. Sprinkle with 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt and several grinds of pepper and toss to coat again. Spread the carrots into a single layer. Roast on the bottom rack for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, spread the hazelnuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and toast on the top rack, stirring halfway through, until fragrant and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Let the nuts cool for 5 minutes.
Flip the carrots, then roast them until the carrots are tender and the edges are charred and crispy, 15 to 20 minutes more.
Wrap the toasted hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much of the skins as possible (don’t worry about any skin that doesn’t easily come off). Transfer the nuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop.
Spread the labneh out in a large, even layer on a serving plat- ter with the back of a spoon. Place the roasted carrots on top of the labneh. Drizzle the remaining half of the brown butter sauce over the carrots, then sprinkle with the hazelnuts, parsley, and a generous pinch of flaky sea salt.
A Little More About Labneh
Can’t find labneh? To make your own, combine 2 cups whole-milk plain Greek yogurt and 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl. Line a fine- mesh strainer with a couple of layers of cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Place the yogurt mixture in the strainer, cover the top with plastic wrap, and let drain in the fridge for 24 hours.
Labneh is traditionally enjoyed as a dip or spread, or even rolled into balls and marinated in olive oil and spices and served as part of a mezze or breakfast platter. For me, nothing beats serving it simply in a bowl, topped generously with olive oil and za’atar, and paired with crudités, pita chips, or torn flatbread. It’s also wonderful dolloped on fresh fruit and drizzled with honey in place of your usual morning yogurt.
Excerpted from Salad Seasons: Vegetable-Forward Dishes All Year by Sheela Prakash, Photographs by Kristen Teig/ Courtesy of Rizzoli New York. Copyright 2023 Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.
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