Could it be the answer to every parent’s dream, a way to get vegetables into a growing child? NPR reports that chefs are adding vegetables to dessert. The trade magazine Food Technology describes dishes such as “celery sorbet with celery salad, goat cheese mousse balls, macerated figs and balsamic vinegar at Del Posto in New York; sweet corn crème brulée with popcorn shoots and candied bacon at Tilth in Seattle; and a candy cap mushroom ice cream sandwich.”
It sounds like just another fashionable food trend but, as Food Technology‘s associate editor, Karen Nachay, notes, chefs who are cooking with seasonable goods from local farms are trying to use up excessive supplies of one ingredient or another, rather than consigning them to the dumpster.
Even more, there are nutritional benefits to eating vegetables for dessert that go beyond getting some extra zucchini into your little ones. Mary Ann Johnson, a nutrition professor at the University of Georgia and a spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition, tells NPR that eating vegetables with some fats actually helps the body to better process vitamins called carotenoids. Indeed, a study cited in The Atlantic noted that using a richer, fat-containing salad dressing can actually enhance the nutritional value of your greens.
Johnson emphasizes that “moderation is key” in offering vegetable-laden desserts to children. The goal should be to help them “develop a taste for vegetables” and not to be some sort of sneaky chef-parent trying to sneak a few more nutrients into a child. That is, a dessert “totally overpowered by the sugar and fat” (carrot cake weighed down by gloppy cream cheese frosting) might not really do the trick.
Carotenoids are found in vegetables including carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, collard greens, bell peppers and tomatoes. Here are five suggestions (some inspired by a Wall Street Journal article) for getting your cake (but not too much) while eating your vegetables (and not so thoroughly pulverized in that you can’t detect them) too.
1. Tomato Basil Mille-feuille
A mille-feuille is another name for the French pastry, the Napoleon — three layers of puff pastry and cream. A Tokyo chef layers tomatoes with basil ice cream, tomato gelee (basically, tomato “jello”) and cream cheese to make a “dessert version of a pizza margherita, topped off with candied thyme.” In other words, not only vegetables for dessert, but pizza.
Or, how about beetroots for the millefeuille layers?
2. Guacamole, the Dessert Version
3. Sweets From Sunchokes
Sunchokes — a species of sunflower cultivated for its tubers and with a consistency like the potatoes that are also known as Jerusalem artichokes — can be made into mousse (with white chocolate and blood orange-beetroot jelly) as well as a cake with Asian pears.
4. Celery Sherbet With Celery Salad
Celery is definitely one of those vegetables that requires the chef to have some imagination if she or he wants a picky eater to try it. Here’s a celery sorbet that pays heed to its vegetable-ness by being served with a side of, very appropriately, celery salad.
5. [Name Your Vegetable] Ice Cream
Let’s face it. If you can mash vegetables to the right consistency and combine them with something creamy and churn and freeze the results, you’ve got “name your vegetable” ice cream, whether with mushrooms, spinach or kale. It has been said before: who doesn’t scream for ice cream, vegetables and all?
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