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Giving carob its due

Does this look like health food to you? (Hopefully not - that's the point!)

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Here’s a scenario that may sound familiar to you: you’re seven years old and making your way through your Easter basket, inspecting the goods and deciding which to eat first. You come across a foil-wrapped bunny – one with a colorful wrapper and promising heft. You unwrap it, take a bite, and immediately get that sinking feeling of disappointment. This isn’t a chocolate bunny.

It’s carob.

Why oh why, did our parents subject us to such horrific “treats” (if they can even be called that)? My friend Michelle and I were debating this the other day; we had both been given carob as kids, and we just couldn’t understand our parents’ motivation. Were they concerned about the caffeine in chocolate? Were they trying to avoid sugar? And, most importantly, did they really think they were fooling us?

I kept thinking about carob after the conversation ended, and I decided that carob had potential. With its earthy flavor and gentle sweetness, it might be an interesting ingredient…as long as it wasn’t trying to be chocolate. It needed to be its own thing. I set out to save carob and give it the respect that it deserved. So I trekked out to my local crunchy granola coop and bought a bag of toasted powdered carob.

Back home, I figured that if I wanted to escape carob’s cubbyholing as a health food, I might as well go big. So I made it into a marinade and paired it with steak. In a blender, I combined a few cloves of raw garlic, a big knob of ginger, fish sauce, some olive oil, and several tablespoons of carob. I whirred it until smooth, slathered it on a couple of pieces of tritip, and let it marinate for a while. Seared stovetop and then finished in the oven, the result was really nice; the carob was subtle among the more pungent elements of the marinade, but it added a nice deep flavor to the steak. I was so relieved that carob could be something interesting and exciting, rather than a sad stand-in for something else.

Just one problem: I barely made a dent in my bag of carob. I’m trying to figure out what else to do with it. Suggestions?

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