Parsnips: A Hint of Sweetness

Béatrice Peltre plays around with the unique flavors of parsnips.

When it comes to root vegetables, parsnips are somewhat of an anomaly. They look like a cross between a carrot and a turnip, but when you bite into a parsnip, its powerful and unique flavor quickly proves your eyes wrong. They’re a vegetable like no other and, let’s be honest, not everyone takes to them immediately.

My trick with parsnips is to use them as a flavor enhancer, not as a sole ingredient. They’re deceptively sweet and flavorful, so a little bit can go a long way. Add one or two to a stew to infuse it with a bite of the unexpected; spread a few throughout a pan of roasted potatoes, turnips, and carrots for a hint of sweet in the savory.

For my parsnip and carrot soup recipe, I use equal parts of the two vegetables, along with a balance of other sweet and savory ingredients like orange and apple, and onion and garlic. The result is a dish with a complex and enticing marriage of flavors. Then there’s my all-time favorite use for parsnips: as the base for a spiced cake. The recipe I’ve whipped up for you features parsnips in the same way you would make a carrot cake. It’s a light, moist, and delight- fully healthy dessert, with no gluten or unrefined sugars. Serve it as an alternative to pie at Thanksgiving dinner or as your holiday cake at a family meal. Personally, I plan to bake one of these cakes at the beginning of my week, skip the icing, and enjoy a slice as a daily midmorning snack with a steaming mug of tea. À votre santé et bon appétit.

Buttermilk Parsnip Cake with Lemon and Cinnamon

For the cake

olive oil spray, or olive oil to brush pan 1 cup (120 g) quinoa flour
3⁄4 cup (80 g) sorghum flour
1⁄4 cup cornstarch (or tapioca starch) 11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs
1⁄2  cup olive oil
1⁄2  cup maple syrup

1⁄3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest

(or regular lemon)
4 small to medium parsnips, peeled and grated

Preheat the oven to 350°f and spray a 91⁄2 x 4-inch pan with oil; set aside. In a bowl, combine the quinoa flour, sorghum flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with the olive oil, maple syrup, buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon
zest; set aside. Combine the flours with the wet ingredients and add the parsnips. Pour into the pan and bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until the blade of a sharp knife inserted in the middle comes out dry. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding. Let cool completely.

For the icing

8 ounces (227 g) mascarpone cheese
1⁄2 tablespoon maple syrup
1⁄4 cup chopped green unsalted pistachios Blackberries, for garnish (optional)

In a bowl, stir the mascarpone with the maple syrup. Spread over the cake and add the pistachios and blackberries. Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to use. Slice and enjoy. The cake keeps for a few days in the fridge.