Veggie desserts aren't exactly a new concept — there's carrot cake, of course; and celery sorbet has been a staple of Del Posto's dessert menu for a few years — and yet this winter has seen a number of New York chefs take the idea further, using plenty of beets, parsnips, and fennel in their meal-finishing dishes. These desserts won't substitute for a green juice, but they do make the case that more savory vegetables can be made sweet with impressive results.
Fernet Branca Panna Cotta With Fennel Mostarda
Chris Jaeckle tops a bowl of Fernet Branca-laced panna cotta with large spoonfuls of sweet and spicy caramelized-fennel mostarda for a boozy, earthy dessert.
Sweet Potato Beignets
Where: The Cecil
Sweet potatoes are roasted, pureed, and folded into a beignet batter that is then deep-fried. The doughnuts are topped with a black-pepper-citrus glaze made from candied orange zest and kumquat syrup, and served with crème anglaise on the side for dipping.
After you finish eating carrot fries and rotisserie beets, try pastry chef Deborah Racicot's slightly savory toasted-fennel-infused cheesecake, rolled in a brown-sugar-toasted fennel shortbread crumb and plated with chartreuse-compressed grapefruit segments, bright pomegranate seeds, and ribbons of candied fresh fennel.
Skyr and Beetroot
Dessert at this Nordic restaurant means mousse-like skyr (a soft and intensely tangy yogurt-like cheese) layered with Concord grape preserves, sharp sorrel granita, and beetroot that has been glazed in a rose-petal syrup, dried until raisin-like, and run through a meat grinder before being tossed in dill oil.
Cost: Part of a $75 tasting menu
It's essentially the love child of a cheesecake and a panna cotta: Egg yolks get cooked in a simple syrup made from carrot juice, and are then whipped into a carrot-puree-and-yogurt mixture and set with gelatin. The chilled rounds are topped with shaved yogurt granita, blood-orange-cumin sauce, juniper syrups, and a cumin tuile.
Cost: Part of the $55 tasting menu
This much-lauded plate features a chewy hazelnut cremeux topped with tangy yogurt sorbet, desiccated beet chips, and a splash of a bright magenta sauce made from roasted beets pureed with lemon juice.
Kobocha Brulee Cake
Where: Spot Dessert Bar
The orange-hued cake made with Japanese squash is served warm with a sprinkling of walnut soil and a scoop of condensed-milk ice cream.
Chocolate Beetroot Cake
Where: Vinegar Hill House
Raw shredded beets add moisture and texture to the rich chocolate batter, as well as plenty of natural sweetness.
Where: Dosa Royale
Best after a meal of crispy dosas and spicy sambar, this popular South Indian dessert is a sweet pudding made from yellow split peas (with a pinch of cardamom). It has the consistency of split pea soup.
Rice Pudding With Fennel
Where: The Cleveland
New chef Max Sussman cooks rice pudding in fresh cream, and tops it with pieces of chewy candied fennel and colorful sugar-coated fennel seeds, which are most commonly found in Indian restaurants.
Apple Tart With Swiss Chard
Cost: Part of the $155 tasting menu
Apple tarts are best served with ice cream, and pastry chef Malcolm Livingston II serves his with a bright green swiss-chard sorbet piped inside a pistachio tuile.
Parsnip Ice Cream
Ignacio Mattos offers sea-salt-topped parsnip ice cream with a scoop of 32-percent chocolate caramel — plus candied sesame seeds.
Fennel Baked Alaska
Where: Eleven Madison Park
Cost: Part of the $225 tasting menu
The classic flaming American dessert is torched tableside and garnished with fennel four ways: a candied fennel puree, fennel pollen, fennel meringue, and a fennel-seed shortbread.
Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu
Where: Dirt Candy
Amanda Cohen is the pro at using vegetables in unexpected ways: She grills and purees Japanese eggplant, folds it into a bowl of mascarpone, and slathers it between layers of house-made rosemary ladyfingers. It's served with a puff of rosemary cotton candy.