Parsnips

Yesterday I had the privilege of cooking with two of my favorite aromatic ingredients – jasmine rice, and parsnips.

Whenever I measure out jasmine rice for a recipe, I always have to take a couple moments to bury my nose in the jar and just breathe… the warm nutty aroma is amazing, even before you cook it and fill your kitchen with the scent of popcorn.

Parsnips are equally lovely. Looking at the supermarket bags of yellowish roots with their waxy coating, you’d think “eh” and move along. But once you peel them to reveal the crisp white interior, a scent like the sweetest carrot you could ever imagine spiced with a hint of ginger rises up and smacks you in the face, and stops you in your tracks. With these as well, I just have to pause and inhale for a while before I can keep slicing.

Unfortunately with my area’s short 90-day growing season, I may not be able to raise parsnips to maturity in my shady garden area – but at least I can still buy them. 😀 

Here are two of my favorite ways to prepare parsnips, after the fold.

(… but of course this morning I had to go read a Spanish cookbook I checked out from the library, and ruin it all. Now I am dreaming of garlic octopus fried in olive oil with paprika…)

Parsnip Tempura

Caramelized Parsnip Cake

Parsnip Tempura  by Char McLaughlin

While you probably want to include a few other vegetables or fishes in your tempura frying session, the parsnips are still my favorite.

  • Parsnips, peeled and sliced thinly on the diagonal to maximize surface area
  • For batter:
  • 1 egg
  • ~ 1 cup ice water
  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose or cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • For cooking:
  • some more flour or cornstarch
  • 1 cup Panko (optional)
  • vegetable oil for frying

Mix the batter only right before you’re ready to use it! Mix flour, cornstarch and baking powder in a small bowl, then add egg and ice water. Mix very gently, stirring only 4-5 times. It’s okay if it’s lumpy with bits of unmixed flour – the key to good, light tempura is to not overmix the batter.

Heat the oil to 340 F/ 170 C. With tongs or long tempura chopsticks, grab a slice of parsnip, dust it lightly with the extra flour or cornstarch, dip it in the tempura batter to coat each side (shake off the extra), then if you like touch it into the panko (for extra crunch). Fry in the hot oil till the batter starts to turn gold. Drain on absorbent paper, and serve immediately, with a dipping sauce of your choice.

(If you want to eat too, you can keep cooked tempura warm in a 250 F oven for 5-10 minutes only while you finish cooking the rest.)

Caramelized Parsnip Cake  by Regan Daley

If you like carrot cake, you should also like this. I’ve tweaked the spicing to my own preference. While the recipe was written for a layer cake, I did it as a sheet cake with good results – although I had to add extra cream cheese frosting to my plate, to compensate for the reduced surface area… 🙂

  • 2 cups raw parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 1 cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped tinned pears in their own juice, drained, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup mild vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a small baking dish with aluminum foil, add sliced parsnips and cover tightly with another piece of foil. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the parsnips are caramelized on the bottom and soft and custardy on the tops. Remove from the oven, mash, and set aside.

While the parsnips are baking, toast and chop the pecans, and chop the pears. Grease a 9×13″ pan.

In a large bowl, combine the sugars and stir to blend and break up lumps. Sift in flour, baking powder, salt and spices, and stir to blend thoroughly. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add oil and vanilla, whisking gently until blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir until just moistened. Fold in the parsnips, chopped pears and reserved pear juice; then fold in the pecans and coconut.

Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top, and bake for 40-50 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden. Cool, then frost with cream cheese frosting. Store in refrigerator.

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