This season I’ll be joining forces with local urban farmers, Green City Growers. Each month, Green City Growers will feature a new fruit or vegetable on their site, along with tips for growing and caring for it. I’ll bring that same fruit or vegetable into my kitchen and show you how to turn it into something delicious!
It’s hard to imagine that a little over two months ago, I was standing on a rooftop farm with only the tiniest hints of plant life. The plots were freshly planted with radishes, kale and lettuces—small specks of green that would eventually make their way to the Whole Foods below.
I went back last week on a steamy 90-degree day, and was completely shocked by how the farm had transformed. There were snap pea plants about 5 1/2-feet tall, peppers, tomatoes, baby eggplants, and beautiful bushy rows of rainbow carrots.
I’d spent the week before figuring out what I was going to do with them. I knew I wanted to use the whole carrot—root, stems and greens—so I decided on something cold and fresh (otherwise, their flavor might change).
Carrot tops are completely edible—and to me, they taste a lot like a cross between carrot and parsley. The stems are a little stronger and fresher in flavor, while the greens are more subdued. A lot of people turn them into pesto—but I don’t love what happens to their flavor when they get ground up in the food processor. The grassy, carroty flavor gets dull and bitter, which is why I recommend chopping them with a knife.
If you’ve ever had cold noodles from a Chinese restaurant, there’s something truly satisfying about chewy noodles coated in a thick, nutty dressing whose richness is cut by the bite of fresh scallion greens. Maybe it was the heat—but I thought about those cold noodles as I tried to find a home for the fresh, zippy carrot tops that would soon come my way.
I had no intention of re-creating the noodles, which typically involve sesame paste, egg noodles, and a lot more nuance and depth than my own creation. Still, I feel obliged to recognize my source of inspiration, and how it led me to break through that carrot top pesto wall with peanut butter, ginger and soy sauce.
A fresh noodle salad is the result, with carrots, carrot tops, cucumbers, snap peas and chives—shredded and sprinkled throughout like edible rainbow confetti. As the season moves forward, you can absolutely swap in any vegetable that tastes good with peanut butter (like sweet summer corn).
The same goes for the noodles. There are soba noodles in this version, but if egg noodles, rice noodles, or zoodles are more your speed—please, do your thing!
If you ever crave carrot sticks and peanut butter, this noodle salad will definitely scratch that itch. More importantly, it will give you an excuse to experiment with carrot tops, which to me, are as valuable as their purple, orange and yellow roots.
This noodle salad is my dinner-friendly take on carrots and peanut butter. The dressing is rich with creamy peanut butter, ginger and soy sauce—three flavors that pair exceptionally well with fresh carrots and carrot tops. Between the noodles, dressing and vegetables, this salad makes a satisfying summer meal, especially on the days when it’s too hot to cook.
Carrot & Peanut Butter Noodle Salad
1 recipe Peanut Butter Dressing (see below)
4 oz soba noodles
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot stems & greens
1/2 cup halved and thinly sliced cucumber
1 handful snap peas, sliced diagonally
1 tbsp coarsely chopped chives
Peanut Butter Dressing
makes about 1/2 cup
1/4 cup peanut butter (preferably the natural, runny kind—for its texture)
1-3 tbsp water
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- In a small bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking the peanut butter, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar and crushed red pepper flakes together. Continue whisking while adding the water bit by bit, until it has reached your desired consistency.
- Taste the dressing and adjust to your liking. Set aside.
- Bring 7-8 cups of water to a rolling boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Boil the soba noodles according to the instructions on the package.
- Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of ice water for the boiled noodles. Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer the noodles to the ice bath until they have cooled entirely.
- Drain the noodles and place them in a large bowl along with half of the dressing, carrots, carrot tops, cucumbers, snap peas and chives. Toss to coat.
- Divide the noodles into servings and distribute the other half of the carrots, carrot tops, cucumbers, snap peas and chives among the plates. Drizzle with a little more dressing, if desired.*
*If you have any leftovers, store the salad and any extra dressing separately to keep the noodles from absorbing it all.
Visit Green City Growers for more information on rainbow carrots.