Eating vegetables doesn't have to be limited to our sad desk lunch routines or a bid at "eating healthier" whenever we can. Now we can feel faux righteousness eating dessert, too, with NYC chefs employing the veg in sweet applications at their restaurants. Nobody is fooled by carob cake, but these vegetable-based desserts are working wonders with unexpected ingredients.
Is your body ready for celery cheesecake and corn husk meringues? Let's find out.
Parsnip at Villanelle (Michael Tulipan)
Parsnip at Villanelle, $12: Parsnips don't get many points in the beauty department—looking as it does like a pale, stubby carrot—but bake it and braise it in butter and the sweet flavor of the root vegetable is revealed. And while many of us peel and discard the vegetable's stubbly skin, Chef Nick Licata shaves the skin off and turns it into a parsnip crisp, which the flesh wears like a crown. If it's all sounding a little too virtuous, consider that the dessert is anchored by a pool of molten white chocolate.
15 East 12th Street, 212-989-2474; villanellenyc.com
Avocado at Empellon, $14 The "Avocado" dessert at Alex Stupak's latest looks like an avocado—and technically is an avocado—only...it isn't. Putting aside the fact that avocado is technically a fruit, let's dig deeper into this optical illusion. According to Grub Street, pastry chef Justin Binnie uses a silicone mold to shape frozen avocado parfait into the correct shape before airbrushing it to get those unique color shading. The creation comes with a eucalyptus yogurt, olive oil and a lime granita.
510 Madison Avenue; empellon.com
Sweet Potato cooked in ash at Metta (Katie Burton)
Sweet Potato at Metta, $8 This Fort Greene newcomer that embraces the ash has two veggie-based desserts on its menu, including a deconstructed parsnip cake with an ice cream made from lovage, the leaves of which have a vegetal, celery-esque flavor. Then there's the Ash-Roasted Sweet Potato, which takes full advantage of the restaurant's open fire kitchen to concentrate the sweetness of the tuber for its dessert application.
The exterior of the potato comes encased in a thicker layer of charred skin, but the inside remains that gorgeous, jewel-toned orange, making for a pretty color contrast. On the side, a rich cream made from elecampane, an herb that brings out the natural anise flavors of the sweet potato.
197 Adelphi Street, 718-233-9134; mettabk.com
Celery cheesecake roll with celeriac ice cream at Dirt Candy (Evan Sung)
Celery Cheesecake Roll at Dirt Candy, $11 When your business centers around vegetables, of course they'll show up in the desserts, too, including Amanda Cohen's excellent LES eatery Dirt Candy. The sweets selections are rife with veggie matter, including an Onion Chocolate Tart, Corn Cake, a Carrot Meringue Pie and a Cucumber Semifreddo Pie.
But today, we focus on the wonder of making a dieter's best friend/worst enemy into something decadent and decidedly not diet-friendly: the Celery Cheesecake Roll. That anyone can make what's essentially fibrous water sticks into something creamy and rich, yet still effervescent and light, is a testament to their skill with the medium.
The super complex dessert features peanut butter cheesecake that offsets the natural bitterness of the celery, and alongside the candied grapes and raisin caramel for some more dessert touchstones.
86 Allen Street, 212-228-7732; dirtcandynyc.com
Sweet Potato Mello (Eden Cale)
Sweet Potato Mello at Morgenstern's, $4.50+ The sweet potato returns for a redux in the dessert category at Nick Morgenstern's eponymous LES ice cream parlor. "We always have something on the menu that has a vegetable element to it," Morgenstern says. "Root vegetables work really well and I think a lot of times when I eat a roasted root vegetable it makes me think of dessert in the same way that a roasted apple would. The sweetness and the combination of sweet and savory elements."
The shop roasts then purees the sweet potatoes, to which they add caramel and marshmallow. "The idea of adding marshmallow to it in the same way that you have a sweet potato casserole where you put marshmallows on top," Morgenstern explains. "When you eat that it's really well-balanced, the combination of the earthy potato with the caramel that's a little bit bitter...the marshmallow kind of lightens it up."
The Sweet Potato bids adieu to the menu at the end of May, but it'll be replaced by a Charred Chocolate Eggplant flavor. Morgenstern slices then carres the eggplant, which is chopped and blended into a base with chocolate.
2 Rivington Street, 212-209-7684; morgensternsnyc.com
Corn Husk Meringue at Cosme, $16 There's corn in nearly every element of this elegant dessert designed by Daniela Soto-Innes for Enrique Olvera's restaurant Cosme. The crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside meringue has ground up, baked corn husk whipped into it, and the creamy mascarpone filling is made with sweet corn. A burnt vanilla cream base holds everything in place—as much as an avalanche of fluffy cheese can be kept intact—and finishers of more burnt corn husk and a pinch of salt reground the dish in its inherent earthiness.
35 East 21st Street, 212-913-9659; cosmenyc.com