I was inspired by a photo of roasted parsnips in the November issue of the English/Australian food magazine Delicious. Beautifully golden on a well-worn baking sheet, the parsnips had simply been halved, tossed with olive oil and parmesan, and roasted, destined to be pureed in a soup.
I got a different idea. I imagined them roasted with cocoa nibs.
So often (though not in that particular Delicious. article), it’s the sweetness in root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes that’s played up by adding maple syrup or brown sugar. Though I can appreciate any of these vegetables prepared that way, I prefer not to intensify the natural sweetness, but to play to the savory. It was when a friend, years ago, served mashed sweet potatoes with butter, salt and pepper that I realized I actually liked sweet potatoes. Til then I’d politely eaten sweeter preparations.
Adding cocoa nibs seemed a great direction to take savory.
I preheated the oven to 375°.
I peeled six medium parsnips, about 1 1/4 pounds, and cut them in half. I cut a thicker one in quarters. On a baking sheet, I tossed them with one or two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and a good handful of cocoa nibs (about 1/8 cup), then spread them out across the sheet. I roasted them on one side for 30 minutes, then flipped them over and checked again after another 20 minutes, the kitchen filling with the smell of parsnips and cocoa cooking. Golden and fork-tender…done.
Every time I take a bite of parsnips, I’m reminded how much I like them, and this was no exception. Their light banana-like sweetness worked well with what were now crispier toasted nibs. I ate them as is, though they’d pair well with a sauteed green.
A fun twist, now I see roasted cocoa nibs in the future of carrots, onions, eggplant…
A small note on cocoa nibs: The brand I used is Vintage Plantations, and they are Rainforest-Alliance-certified, which means they work within certain guidelines regarding ethical and sustainable environment and farming standards, as do cocoa and chocolate products which are fair-trade-certified.