Wednesday, March 21, 2007

To Parsnip with Love or Reframing Experience

After striking a dissonant chord with some readers over radishes, I thought back to a post last fall which rallied for roots. If one were particularly observant in its reading, one might have noticed a rather obvious but easy to forgive omission. The parsnip has been categorically ignored, frowned upon, shunned, dismissed, misplaced, forgotten, and disapproved of for the entirety of my life, and for the shallowest of reasons- they give me the creeps. I don’t really remember the circumstances surrounding my first parsnip sighting but I do know with horrific certainty that I diagnosed Pastinaca sativa as albino mutant carrots. They are ugly stubby things with an unforgivable color, the antithesis to life. A swash of images pass over me one more egregious than the last; stiffened bruised corpse fingers, chipped tea-stained teeth, maggots writhing within the cork confines of a kicked open decomposed log. I can practically smell the formaldehyde of a giant segmented and bloated earthworm or a geoduck jarred in captivity, just thinking of parsnips. I know I have a wild imagination and a serious problem too, which is why this particular genus-species has been long banished to the nether regions of my mind until now.

Fast friends with radishes, it is hard to believe there once was a time I snubbed them too. It has dawned on me that parsnips are the final frontier in vegetables, the one that has escaped my kitchen chop block. Only one thin memory of eating ghoulish white rounds in chicken soup exists, my spoon swiftly avoiding contact with the murky discs while I feebly drank some root infused broth instead. The remembrance is fuzzy and unformed, no doubt blunted by some much needed defensive forgetting and a smear of revulsion. I believe the flavor was slightly sweet, herbal and perfumed in a weird kind of way, but nothing so offensive to keep me from exploring the harmless root a little further.

Now approximately twelve years later, the vegetable which has yet to see the light of day and has almost completely composted into oblivion is coming out of the shadows. It is time to interject a little psychology and a smit of realism, after all what other foods are being impulsively annihilated due to my unchecked emotionality? Indeed the parsnip is a defenseless root and not a dead appendage- the parsnip is a defenseless root and not a dead appendage. And it is all too clear that my past association is preventing me from truly experiencing the vegetable for what it is, a brutish yellow white carrot with a wild carrot flavor. Simple as that.

With a little determination and mental processing, I am excited about my new exotic vegetal friend. First I found a recipe for Parsnip Ice cream, which then morphed into an idea for Parsnip Panna Cotta. Lastly with a grand flourish of creativity I decided that I should grate a whole slew and mix them into a gingerbread spiced cake. To my amazement I discovered that others have already danced where I dared to go. But since this is my own personal Goliath, I decided to forgo originality and bake the cake anyways. For as far as I am concerned- anyway I slice it, this experiment has been a success. You can never really lose with cake and now the garden of eating is that much wider.

Nip-n-Sap Bread- This is an Ode to Spring for the Vernal Equinox highlighting parsnips pulled fresh from the frozen ground (which V says makes them sweeter) and maple syrup freshly boiled from the sap. The intention of the bread is to support parsnip’s earthy flavor with the spelt and maple. It is sweet but not overly so, since that would only mask its true flavor. The name is cleverly made up by sweet V- this is for you!

3/4 C brown sugar
½ C butter at room temp.
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
½ C maple syrup
½ C buttermilk
2 C spelt flour
¾ tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
¼ tsp salt
2 C grated fresh parsnips
½ C chopped toasted walnuts and/or a few handfuls of plump raisins

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9” cake round. Beat butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy, add eggs and mix until incorporated. In a small bowl mix maple syrup and buttermilk together, stir baking soda into the wet mixture. Sift flour, spices, and salt together into a bowl. Pour half of the flour into the butter mixture and beat a few seconds. Pour about half of the wet ingredients in and mix some more. Repeat with the remaining dry and then wet ingredients. Lightly fold parsnips and walnuts into the batter and then pour into the prepared pan. Bake in the oven for about 55 minutes. Done when toothpick in the center comes out clean. Can be gussied up with cream cheese frosting or a brown butter orange frosting, but I think it quite nice with a thin coat of butter and maybe a small bowl of coffee ice cream on the side.


sher said...

I was very prejudiced against parsnips as a kid--but now I love them. I usually just puree them, so this cake creation of yours is magnificent! Parsnip ice cream. Now that's really out there!!!

Lydia said...

I too never liked parsnips until recently. For Thanksgiving a few years ago I made a pear and parsnip soup that was just unbelieveably delicious, and since then I've tried roasted parsnips, which are wonderful. I'm taking parsnips one dish at a time!

HipWriterMama said...

Parsnip ice cream. Not sure about this one. But this parsnip cake. Does it taste like carrot cake? If it does, than I'm in. I'm actually experimenting making a good carrot cake without eggs. This is a tough one.

Lovely post and beautiful picture.

Ellie said...

I've never tried parsnip but have always been intruiged by it - and as soon as I can get my hands on some healthy specimens, I think I'll have to give 'em a try :)

Monkey Wrangler said...

Like, ghost-root cake.....maybe there needs to be a Halloween of Springtime, with this as the dessert. This sounds fantabulous. Mmmm, spices sound nice, and sound perfect dolloped with the ice cream.

Lis said...

I'm a big fan of root veggies and I really like parsnips roasted along side potatoes and rutabega.. but now that you've mentioned cake *perk!* it sounds even better - quite moist I'd assume?

Way to go in getting over your fear of the "albino mutant carrots" hahahaha!

Freya and Paul said...

I love your illustration firstly!
Also, I love Parsnips! If you roast them with some maple syrup, they are so good. My Father In Law had them at ours for Thanksgiving and said he had previously hated them until he tried them that way. The best way to have them though is in a spiced soup. A very delicate flavour despite their giant maggot features.

Gattina said...

Calli, after I read your post (that was yestersday), I, however, suddenly miss geoduck *lol* What an ugly alien thing, but I just love to eat them. I like this cake recipe, sound great!

Callipygia said...

sher- I am interested to try the ice cream, maybe that will be a new post.

lydia- I'm with you on one parsnip at a time- I started "sweet" and will work my way to "savory".

hipwritermama- Yes, most people think this cake/bread is zucchini. There are lots of great vegan recipes out there, I'll keep my eye out for you.

ellie- Cool a parsnip newbie, good luck!

monkeywrangler- We could rift on that idea of ghost-root...they did seem to disappear into the batter afterall.

lis-I know people seem to like em- roasted, it seemed too concentrated for my introduction, I will try them next.

freya and paul- hey, it was your soup with the parsnip chips that made me reconsider the root. I'm actually interested to make your soup.

gattina- I may have only had it once, as "giant clam" at the sushi bar. Those guys are big!

miragee said...

I love your association of parsnips with the images of yellow teeth and so on. I am not sure if I have tried parsnips, but I do love radishes. We use them to make soups with pork ribs, beef...Very light and refreshing.

Parsnip cake? Well, carrot cakes are one of my all-time favorites, but I haven't tried parsnip flavor yet:-). It's always to read about new dishes here...

Callipygia said...

miragee- this is more carrot like than turnip. It does make a nice white carrot cake.

Tea said...

This was my year to embrace parsnips. Never had anything against them, but never had a use for them either. But they were in the market and I brought them home with me. Made a delicious root vegetable soup from Married...with Dinner, and the glazed parsnips from Matt Bites were amazing. I'm firmly in the parsnip camp now.

Callipygia said...

tea- I guess I am wedging my way into the camp too. I guess blurred up in a soup or doused w/ syrup and roasted in the oven is the way to go!

blatta said...

Parsnips Rutabagas Radish & Kale
Rubicond cheeks so vigorous & Hale

But it's Meat that I Seek
and Fat eases my Pique

Clogged vessels no mind, I'm cheerful yet Pale

Ahh lovely Callipygia, even your inimitable writing has trouble in raising me up in paroxysms of parsnippedness. Hence my silence.

What is needed here is a flush of spring - Abalone (geoduck fooey) opened this weekend. With luck I'll meander north soon and partake of this somewhat overated, but always enjoyable rite.

Did you see the video of the dragon?

I hope you are well.

Almost Vegetarian said...

I love the idea of parsnips (all veg, in fact) in a bread. I must try this, indeed! Cheers.

Callipygia said...

blatta- I can see a child banging fork upon table singing those verses- very funny indeed. And you don't like the geoduck? not even in sushi. No I didn't see the dragon video- AAP?

almost vegetarian-Greetings, yes veggies in bread or cake sort of opens up a whole new world.

Anonymous said...

I have always been fond of parsnips,being a country denizen, eating them raw like carrots,cut in strips and sauteed in butter and brown sugar,boiledthen mashed and mixed into mashed potatoes for an interesting flavor and always in stews and vegetable soups,particularly with a base of equal parts low sodium V-8 and low sodium chicken broth(adding cabbage is also an exta treat) Stephen Eurenius; or

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