With a zillion options for topping crusty toasts, why carrots? I will tell you! Their familiar flavor is a crowd pleaser, their bright orange hue looks gorgeous on a serving platter, and when they are roasted alongside onions and bell peppers and pureed into a creamy spread, the only thing better is… well, topping it with cheese!
You know me, I love to add a bit of punch to my recipes. To zest up a familiar favorite.
Well I’m going to share a couple chef secrets. These crostini call for two ingredients that you might not be familiar with, or at least may not have in your pantry. Both add such a nice pop to dishes!
Once an obscure Spanish spice, smoked paprika is now readily available at most grocery stores in the spice aisle. I use it probably 4 times a week in my cooking to add a smoky sweetness that our whole family loves. Our kids especially appreciate that while it imparts a beautiful chili flavor, it is not at all spicy.
If your local store doesn’t carry smoked paprika, you can substitute regular sweet paprika for a mild chili flavor, though it obviously won’t have the smoky taste – Or if you don’t mind a little kick, chipotle powder offers a more robust, less sweet, chili flavor and definitely brings the smoke.
A mainstay in Middle Eastern cooking, pomegranate molasses (a.k.a. pomegranate syrup) adds sweetness, but in a very balanced way. It has a striking, yet welcoming, acidity which mellows the flavor, making it a perfect ingredient in marinades, sauces and dressings. Maple syrup can be substituted if you cannot find it, or you can follow a recipe to make your own pomegranate molasses.
I digress… Back to these beautiful Smoky Carrot Crostini! I love these toasts as a light nibble to start the evening, though we also enjoy the carrot topping in other ways, too.
Given entertaining across the U.S. will likely be dialed back this holiday season, it’s worth noting that this recipe is totally worth making with or without a crowd. Leftovers are GREAT tossed with oven roasted new (or fingerling) potatoes. Yum!!
Another option is as a spread for sandwiches. We recently warmed up a baguette, slit it in half and slathered it with the carrot puree, loaded it with tons of fresh mozzarella, and popped it in the oven. Served with a simple green salad, it made a stellar weeknight meal.
Speaking of the cheese!! (I must mention the cheese! 🧀). Our family loves the crisp tanginess of fresh goat cheese.
However, for those that don’t prefer the flavor of fresh goat cheese, I suggest either a nice feta, or a creamy fresh mozzarella. Both will be excellent – the mozzarella offering a creamier, softer mouthfeel, and the feta providing a briny, bright accent.
Whatever you decide, you are going to love these festive little treats, and the dividends they pay as leftovers. Happy Holidays!
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Smoky Carrot Crostini
- 2 large carrots (8 ounces) cut into chunks
- 2 bell peppers yellow or orange, cut into chunks
- 1 small onion (6 ounces) cut into chunks
- ¼ teaspoon cumin seed or ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses or use honey
- 4 ounces soft goat cheese
- 24 slices of baguette, toasted or use store-bought crostini toasts
- Preheat your oven to 400. Place the carrots, peppers, cumin seed and onion in a baking dish large enough to hold them without crowding, and toss with the olive oil and salt. Bake, stirring once or twice, until all the vegetables are softened and the pepper is slightly charred, about 30-40 minutes.
- Place the vegetables in a food processor and add the vinegar and molasses or honey. Blend, scraping the sides if necessary, until a smooth puree has formed. Taste for salt and add more if necessary.
- Place the toasts on a serving platter. Smear about a tablespoon of puree over the toasts and top with crumbled goat cheese. Crack some freshly ground black pepper over top and serve.
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