Updated: Feb 5, 2020
We hosted an Americana Farm 2 Table Dinner last weekend to celebrate the week of Independence Day. There was a long list of exceptional veggies available from the garden to choose from, and it proved difficult to commit to using just a small variety of vegetables: a handful for the starter (Fennel & Kohlrabi Slaw), and then a side dish to the main course. I considered braising parsnips, but it's such a common side to see recently that I chose to try something different that perhaps used more than one vegetable.
Four years ago, when Wyatt was an infant, and I was newly a gardener, I made his first baby food by mashing farm grown parsnips. As a new mom, I had to try a bite to make sure it would do; and it truly inspired me to find ways to use parsnips, including as a substitute for potatoes.
Cauliflower is a great veggie substitute for both potatoes and rice. It's easy to prepare, boil and mash just like potatoes. It's even easier to toss into a food processor when raw to create a tender but slightly al dente substitute for rice when served under curry or stir fry: seriously, much easier and tastier than rice. Romanesco and purple cauliflower are equally wonderful for this.
Parsnips can be a bit grainy, where cauliflower florets turn out quite smooth like mashed potatoes. So between the two textures of parsnips and cauliflower and their light, bright flavors, I considered it would be worth a shot to combine the two into a mash as a side dish for smoked Berkshire pork chops on a hot summer's eve. That was definitely not a bad move: it was a total crowd-pleaser.
So here it is, without further ado. Ditch the starchy mashed potatoes, and opt for the brightly flavored, fresh mash of parsnips and cauliflower next time your meal calls for a creamy mashed side dish. It's less dense and easier to digest, and adds such a wonderful depth to the meal.
3 large parsnips
1 medium head of cauliflower
¾ cup vegetable broth
3 cloves crushed garlic
3 tbsp unsalted butter
½ tbsp Himalayan pink salt, plus extra to boil water
½ tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
Sprinkle of fragrant fennel leaves
Peel and chop the parsnips.
Trim and cut cauliflower into florets.
Place parsnips and cauliflower in pot and cover with water, sprinkle with a generous dash of salt.
Cover pot with a lid and bring water to a boil. Remove lid and cook until tender.
Drain pot, add vegetable broth, crushed garlic, butter, salt and pepper.
Mash or blend using an immersion blender.
Garnish with fresh fennel leaves