Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Carrots?

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Earthy-sweet, versatile carrots may be a staple in most American kitchens, but that doesn't mean there aren't more uses to explore for the orange, red, and purple-hued veggies. A mammoth group of our Hey Chef panelists responded with their favorite ways to use carrots, from juicing-and-reducing to puréeing to shaving and beyond. Here are the 10 most compelling, out-of-the-box applications they shared.

Hummus

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[Photograph: Courtesy of Copita Tequileria y Comida]

As the maestra de cocina and co-owner of Copita Tequileria y Comida in Sausalito, California, chef Joanne Weir focuses on using seasonal, local ingredients in the restaurant's modern Mexican-inspired and 100% gluten-free menus. Weir is also a James Beard Award–winning cookbook author and judge and an international cooking teacher. Her latest book, Kitchen Gypsy, was published in September 2015.

I do a carrot hummus that's perfect for fall. I start by roasting carrots with a little salt, wrapping them in foil so that they keep their moisture. Then you add everything you'd add to hummus other than the actual chickpeas: a little tahini, a touch of brown sugar, cumin, and a pinch of crushed red pepper, with a little water to loosen it into a spreadable texture. It's fabulous on root vegetable chips.

Gnocchi

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[Photograph: Jim Taylor]

Since first learning to cook at his father's restaurant at age 11, Chef Michele Brogioni developed a passion for creating dishes in his native Italy that would lead him to over 20 years of culinary experience and earn him a Michelin star as head chef at Relais & Châteaux's Il Falconiere in Cortona, Italy. As head chef of Maison Dellos Catering, he's cooked for U.S. presidents and other heads of state from around the world. He is currently executive chef at iconic Italian restaurant The Leopard at des Artistes in New York City.

We use carrots in place of potatoes in our gnocchi. First we cook the carrots in a salt bath in the oven for 45 minutes or so. Then we dry them off as best we can, mash them with a potato masher, and combine them with eggs, flour, nutmeg, salt, and black pepper. We roll the dough into gnocchi and boil them just as you normally would. Serve 'em with butter and sage or Parmesan cheese.

Carrot Top Salsa Verde

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[Photograph: Courtesy of Eataly]

Fitz Tallon is the executive chef of Eataly New York, overseeing all seven restaurants in the market. His passion for food was first sparked when he worked on Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown, Massachusetts, and he went on to hone his craft at the French Culinary Institute in New York before externing at Blue Hill restaurant. He launched his career at the acclaimed Babbo Ristorante and moved to Eataly New York at its inception as a sous chef and then executive chef of Eataly's fine-dining restaurant, Manzo.

Carrots have so many uses, their greens included. I use carrot tops in salsa verde—since it's so heavily flavored with bold herbs and anchovies, it can handle the strongly flavored, slightly bitter leaves. Unfortunately, carrot tops are usually really dirty; you'll want to wash them really thoroughly. Then just briefly blanch them, chop them up, and toss them in the food processor until they're pulpy and puréed. It can be seasoned with anything you'd add to a salsa verde base—cornichons, capers, anchovies, mustard, and herbs all work.

Carrot Top Salad

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[Photograph: Galdones Photography]

Edward Kim is the executive chef and a partner at the Bon Appétit "Best New Restaurant" Ruxbin and Mott St. in Chicago. His eclectic menus feature a variety of soulful, sincerely crafted dishes that highlight seasonal ingredients and big, bold flavors.

We use carrot tops a lot. When you buy carrots, the carrot tops tend to be either sandy or tough. But if you're growing them yourself, if you can trim them down—it'll keep them young and tender, and you'll get more use out of them over time. The young greens are fine, almost like chervil, but with a really distinct carrot flavor and edible flowers that are just fantastic. Throw the tops in with purslane, lettuces, or other wild greens to make your salads more special.

Tofu-Less Hot Dogs

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[Photograph: Courtesy of Tse Wei Lim and Diana Kudayarova]

Since catalyzing Somerville, Massachusetts's Union Square restaurant landscape with their intimate restaurant Journeyman and cocktail bar, backbar, Chef Tse Wei Lim and his wife, Diana Kudayarova, have taken their forward-thinking, grassroots approach to Kendall Square in Cambridge, where they opened Ames Street Deli and Study in 2014.

We serve hot dogs in one of our bars and needed something for vegetarians. But tofu dogs definitely aren't our thing—we wanted something carefully conceptualized, rather than a mediocre attempt at fake meat. One of my cooks came up with this idea: Take a carrot, slather it with miso and butter, roast it, and put it in a hot dog bun. It's super simple and totally amazing.

Hay-Steamed and Grilled

Chef Daniel Eddy, formerly of Spring in Paris, is the chef of Rebelle, a French restaurant on New York's Bowery. Pulling inspiration from his time at Spring, Daniel has created a menu at Rebelle that references classic French dishes and technique and uses market-fresh ingredients.

Carrots are really common, and most approaches to cooking them tend to be pretty similar. To make them really stand out, we steam them in a bed of hay for a sort of return to the earth. Many people can pinpoint the smell of wet hay, which brings out the earthiness and sweetness of the root vegetable. To do it at home, put some hay in a steamer, add the carrots on top, cover them with more hay, and then steam them. When they're fork-tender, let them cool and then throw them on the grill. You'll wind up with a layer of sweetness from the carrots, then the wet earthiness of the hay, and a balancing note of sharp char from the grill. For one last kick, try adding cracked black pepper for texture—the release of spice counters all the sweetness and smokiness in there.

Meatless Bolognese

[Photograph: Courtesy of Rusty Mackerel]

Chef James "Mac" Moran was recently a partner and executive chef at Rusty Mackerel, a new American restaurant in New York's Washington Heights. A New York Times Critics' Pick Chef and Irish Echo 40 Under 40 Honoree, Moran is now a chef with Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy.

We cater to a lot of vegetarians or vegans, so I take carrots and run them through a meat grinder to make a carrot Bolognese. It's 100% vegan. Once the carrots are ground, we sear them like you would ground meat, encouraging deep caramelization and browning. Then you add savory components, like soy sauce, onion, and garlic. Typically you'd finish a Bolognese with some kind of dairy, but to keep it vegan, we finish it with carrot juice (it lends a bright red color) and basil. It's remarkable how the ground carrots really mimic the texture of meat.

Whoopie Pies

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[Photograph: Amy Sinclair]

Abigail Quinn grew up in the kitchen, working with her family's restaurant and developing a passion that took her to Decatur, Georgia's James Beard Award–nominated Cakes & Ale, where she worked her way up from hostess to pastry chef. Now Abigail is one half of the lead team at the restaurant's sister, Proof Bakeshop, where she creates a variety of goods using quality ingredients and traditional techniques with modern and playful twists.

Whoopie pie is usually made with chocolate cake, but I love making it with carrot cake instead. Carrots let you really embrace fall flavors like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. To make whoopie pie–ready carrot cake, you'll want to halve the amount of fat called for in the recipe and use butter instead of oil. You should also include a teaspoon of baking powder to give it extra lift. Then, rather than baking it in a cake pan, scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper—since the fat ratio is different, they'll be able to hold their shape without a pan and spread out nice and evenly. I like making a flavored buttercream for the middle; try making it with dark rum or maple syrup.

Doughnuts

[Photograph: Courtesy of Odd Duck]

Named one of Zagat's 30 Under 30 in 2015, Austin-born and -bred Susana Querejazu is a pro in the pastry kitchen, using seasonal ingredients in bread, traditional pastries, and composed desserts as pastry chef of Odd Duck.

At Odd Duck, I like to offer a lot of hot/cold contrasts on our dessert menu—I think it's the ultimate pleasing combination. So, while I think carrot cake's amazing, I prefer to make it into a doughnut instead, frying it to order and serving it with rum raisin ice cream. It's basically a cake doughnut recipe with carrot cake spices and carrot pieces in it, so the flavor of the vegetable really comes through.

Meringues

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[Photograph: Courtesy of Hot Joy]

Jessica Perez, pastry chef at the Empty Stomach Restaurant Group, is a pastry aficionado, Zumba addict, and the perfect complement to the exuberant (and a little bit wild) San Antonio trio of Barbaro, Hot Joy, and The Monterey.

You can make any kind of flavored meringue by rehydrating egg white powder. To change things up, I like to rehydrate it in a blender with carrot juice or a carrot-based infusion. Whip it with your sugar, salt, and acid so that it becomes a foam again, and then pipe it into whatever shapes you want—we make them into little kisses, or bake them into flat disks that we can break into shards for garnishes. You get a pastel orange color that's a really beautiful finish to a carrot cake dessert.