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20/20 Carrots

For the longest time, I was both proud and perhaps a bit smug that I was the only person in my entire family — extended included — who did not need glasses.

That’s quite the achievement, too, considering how many Asians tend to be myopic.

I thought I had escaped that fate, as I remained spectacle-free through my teens, despite the fact that my parents, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles all grew up wearing those familiar round or cat-eyed black, plastic frames.

My dreams came to an abrupt end, though, when my older brother Dale took me to the Department of Motor Vehicles one day to get my driver’s license. I had studied the manual like crazy so that I’d do well on the written and driving tests. But who knew it was the simple eye test that would do me in?

I guess I should have known what was in store as I stood in line and stared at the eye chart hanging some feet away behind the counter. As hard as I squinted, I still could barely make out anything on it. Once I got closer, though, I thought surely I would. My brother even coaxed me to get out of line, inch closer to the counter and try to memorize the chart before my turn was called. I did give that a try. But as luck would have it, they closed the line that I was in, and shifted us to another line — with a totally different eye chart. Curses!

Needless to say, when it was finally my turn, I strained mightily to see the chart, and called out letters I thought I saw — only to fail miserably. I did not collect $200. I did not pass “Go.” I didn’t even get to take the written test. And forget about any behind-the-wheel shot that day. Mortifyingly, I was sent home with the advice to see an eye doctor, then return another time.

Sigh. A lot of good all those carrots did all my life, huh? Carrots are one vegetable that I’ve always loved. As a child, I might have balked at eating mushy frozen lima beans or wincing bitter melon, but carrots I never turned down.

After all, with their natural sweetness, they’re irresistible. Even more so, too, when they’re coated with a little maple syrup, as in this dish of  “Maple Mustard and Tahini Glazed Carrots.”

The recipe is from the new cookbook, “Clean Start” (Sterling) by Terry Walters, of which I recently received a review copy.  Walters is a proponent of local, sustainable, healthful eating. The 100 vegetarian recipes in the book reflect that philosophy.

To make this simple side dish, cook whole baby carrots in a saute pan of water until tender. Then, mix together the sauce ingredients of maple syrup, whole grain mustard, tahini and lemon juice. Toss carrots in sauce and serve.

The sauce thickens quite a bit as it sits, so I think I might add a tablespoon of water to loosen it up a bit more the next time.

Enjoy these carrots with their sweet, tangy, nutty glaze. I sure did — even while wearing my contact lenses. Sigh.

Maple Mustard and Tahini Glazed Carrots

(Serves 4)

1 pound baby carrots

Sea salt

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon tahini

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon of water, optional

Wash carrots and trim leafy greens, leaving about 1/2 inch of their stems. Fill large saute pan with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Stir in generous pinch of salt and place carrots side by side in water. Cook until just soft and water is nearly evaporated (about 6 minutes, depending on size of carrots). Remove from heat, drain remaining water and set aside.

In a small pan over medium heat, whisk together maple syrup, mustard, tahini, lemon juice and water, if using. Season to taste with salt and remove from heat.

Return carrots in skillet to medium heat and add maple mustard dressing. Saute 1-2 minutes to coat carrots and heat through. Dressing will thicken slightly. Remove from heat and serve.

Note: If you can’t find baby carrots, you can use regular carrots. Just cut into sticks or rounds. Or mix with sliced parsnips. For an even bigger change, substitute grated fresh horseradish root for the tahini.

Adapted from “Clean Start” by Terry Walters

More Veggie Side Dishes: Green Bean Salad with Pickled Shallots

And: Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms with Sage

And: See’s Scotch Kiss Sweet Potatoes

And: Microwave Potato Chips

And: Ad Hoc’s Leek Bread Pudding