Quick-Glazed Carrots

Makes 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

One of the most useful recipes ever and, sadly, one that is often overlooked. Carrots cooked this way are terrific hot, warm, or at room temperature (use oil instead of butter if you plan to serve them less than hot?which also makes them vegan) and take to a wide variety of herbs and other simple treatments. If you can find real baby carrots – the very thin ones – just trim them quickly (don't even bother to peel them); they'll be super.

Use oil instead of butter and the carrots are vegan. Other vegetables you can use: parsnips or turnips.

1 pound carrots, more or less, cut into coins or sticks
2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley, dill, mint, basil, or chervil leaves for garnish (optional)

1. Combine all the ingredients except the garnish in a saucepan no more than 6 inches across; add about 1/3 cup water (or white wine or stock). Bring to a boil, then cover and adjust the heat so the mixture simmers.

2. Cook, more or less undisturbed, until the carrots are tender and the liquid is pretty much gone, 10 to 20 minutes. Uncover and boil off the remaining liquid, then add the lemon juice if you're using it. Taste and adjust the seasoning; serve hot, or within an hour or two, garnished with the herb if you like.

Quick-Glazed Carrots with Orange and Ginger. Not much more work but sexier and far more impressive: Add 1 tablespoon minced or grated peeled fresh ginger to the initial mix; use freshly squeezed orange juice in place of water. Garnish with a teaspoon or more of grated orange and/or lemon zest.

Balsamic-Glazed Carrots with Garlic. Another variation that doesn't take much but is amazing: Use balsamic vinegar in place of the water and add 5 to 10 whole cloves of peeled garlic along with the carrots. Proceed as above, adding water if the mixture dries out before the carrots are done.

5 Ways to Jazz Up Quick-Glazed Carrots

1. 1/2 cup or so of chopped onion, shallot, scallion, or leeks.

2. Add 1/2 cup or so of chopped pitted dates, raisins, dried currants, or dried tomatoes.

3. Whisk together 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1 tablespoon miso, then stir this into the carrots just as they're done.

      (Use sake as the glazing liquid instead of the water if you have it.)

4. Add 1 cup or so peas, snow peas, or snap peas along with the carrots (thawed frozen are fine).

5. Add a tablespoon or so of any mild chile paste (one made with ancho chiles would be ideal).