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Dessert menus harvest vegetables for new flavors

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | 8:53 p.m. CDT
In this undated photo shows the Peas & Carrots dish at Kelly Liken's restaurant in Vail, Colo. Among the desserts that Kelly Liken and pastry chef Colleen Carey have come up with are Peas & Carrots, a concoction that includes brown butter financier, with a sauce of English peas alongside carrot sorbet and carrot marmalade.

Eat your veggies or no dessert? How about eat your vegetables AS dessert?

And we're not talking grandma's zucchini bread. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Maybe you'd like some beetroot ice cream as served by the Sweet Rose Creamery in Santa Monica, Calif. Or perhaps your fancy runs more to sweet asparagus beignets laced with almonds with green asparagus ice cream, poppy seed crunch and violet syrup, a creation of chef Bart Vandaele at the Belga Cafe in Washington, D.C.

The trend is a natural outgrowth of the emphasis on eating fresh and local, says Kelly Liken, who runs her eponymous restaurant in Vail, Colo. Serving the same fruit over and over can get a little monotonous and if you have lots of vegetables at your disposal it only makes sense to experiment a little.

Among the desserts she and pastry chef Colleen Carey have come up with are Peas & Carrots. That would be a concoction that includes brown butter financier (a type of cake) with a sauce of English peas alongside carrot sorbet and carrot marmalade.

Those are peas and carrots showing some serious side.

Liken, who appeared on Season 7 of Bravo's "Top Chef," opened her restaurant 10 years ago and "for 10 years we've been really, really focused on our local vegetables," she says. "We're constantly having to come up with new and innovative vegetable ideas."

Some of the new desserts put a twist on old classics, like chef Jamie Bissonette's carrot cake take.

Bissonette, the James Beard Award-winning chef behind Toro and Coppa in Boston and Toro in New York City, adds carrot juice to whipped cream to add a beautiful touch of orange to the dish, served at Coppa in Boston's South End.

"I came up with the idea for carrot whip cream because I love carrot cake and wanted to do a slightly different take on it. It's one of my absolute favorite desserts ever, and this incorporates the flavor of carrots into a sweet cake in a different way," he says. "I serve the carrot whip cream on olive oil cake with some carrot-parsley crumble and it's this beautiful and fresh variation of one of the most classic desserts. "

Finding the vegetable sweet spot isn't just for restaurants.

At Jamba Juice, the popular chain known for its juices and smoothies, the company saw the interest in vegetables and decided to incorporate them into what had been all-fruit smoothies.

The Apple n' Greens smoothie, for instance combines apple and strawberry juices, kale, peaches, mangoes and bananas. "Kale smoothie" might not be the first thing to spring to mind when thinking of delicious drinks. But it's turned out to be a tasty and extremely popular, says Susan Shields, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Jamba Juice.

There are four fruit-veggie smoothies, including Tropical Harvest, which blends butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and mangoes.

"The beauty about these four items is they taste really good," says Shields. "The kids love these. They don't know that they're vegetables."

With the new school year looming, along with the task of packing daily lunches, finding new ways to look at vegetables is something parents can explore. And it doesn't have to be elaborate; Likens recommends tactics such as grating carrots and zucchini or other squashes into oatmeal cookie mix.

"I always tell parents that's definitely a good way to 'stealth health' the dessert," she says.


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