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The Crisper Whisperer: Parsnip Spice Cake

You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays with ideas on preparing fruits and vegetables. —The Mgmt.

[Photograph: Carolyn Cope]

Even when you run around town calling yourself a "crisper whisperer," you do occasionally end up with a fridge full of dreary looking, unattended-to vegetables. More than two weeks ago I bought a large bag of parsnips and added half of them to a pot of braised short ribs. (I thought about sharing that recipe with you, but we ate it all before I took any photos. Alas.) Recently I've been running across a lot of great-looking recipes for parsnip soups of various types. I kept planning to test a few of those, but there always seemed to be something else to cook first. Poor parsnips.

The further we got from the purchase-on date, and the slightly less delightful the parsnips began to look, the more I realized that the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention" was clearly coined in the presence of parsnips. And it may well have been, since parsnips have been in the Western culinary vernacular for thousands upon thousands of years.

According to The Produce Bible, parsnips were prevalent in the Roman Empire, were used as sucking toys to soothe babies during the Middle Ages, and were the most commonly used winter vegetable throughout much of Europe until the potato was introduced in the 18th century. Colonists in the new world used parsnips for everything from wine to pudding to chips. It's a shame we relegate them to purées and braises most of the time these days. If you don't agree with me about that yet, you should really have a bite of this earthy, perfectly spiced parsnip cake.

Parsnip Spice Cake

About the author: Carolyn Cope writes Umami Girl and manages a CSA in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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