I know the calendar tells us spring has sprung, however, local ingredients are still telling us it’s late winter. Right now, April 5, locally it’s still all about cellared root vegetables, cabbage and greenhouse greens.
Don’t let those restaurant menus filled with fiddlehead ferns, asparagus, ramps and peas fool you, none of it is local. With the big snowfall last week and still chilly temperatures, it seems as though spring will be running a bit late this year. Fiddleheads and ramps are still weeks away, asparagus a month maybe more, and peas closer to two months. Every year is different and as soon as the real local spring ingredients are available our what-are-we-going-to-make-with-this-root-this-time anxiety is lifted, and the real local spring ingredients are plastered on our menu.
The first signs of spring are happening in our rooftop garden, the chives are about an inch out of the ground. That’s it, the weeds haven’t even started yet.
The first food harbinger of spring is usually spring-dug parsnips, this root, wintered in frozen soil, turning the starches into sugars. What you end up with is an amazingly sweet full-flavored parsnip. We received our first batch this week from Hutchin’s Farm, an organic farm located in Concord, MA. We currently have them on our menu stuffed inside agnolotti pasta, fried chips at we are serving on a beef heart dish, and in a cake as a dessert served with smoked maple ice cream. They are also roasted or pureed and make a great sweet or savory custard.
The recipe I am including for parsnip cake is really just an adaption of a traditional carrot cake, substituting parsnips for carrots. I came up with this recipe when a writer from the Boston Globe asked me for an original recipe using parsnips. At the time I had know idea how this would come out, knowing I just wanted to have a recipe included in her article. I can’t say I was surprised with the results, they’re great, especially when using super sweet spring-dug parsnips. As with carrot cake the better the carrot / parsnip tastes the better the cake will be.
Click Parsnip Cake for a link to the recipe.