Mar 25 2011

Cooking it Fresh: Spring Parsnips

March’s weather is wacky.  In the space of a week (last Friday to this Friday), we’ve dined outside in 80 degree weather, walked around without our coats, broken out our umbrellas, slipped and slid down icy streets, and witnessed thunder snow.  One week!

I’m not sure what this weekend will bring, but I hope we make something as memorable as last weekend.  Last Saturday, we dined on Seared Sea Scallops with Spring Dug Parsnip Butter.  It’s rare that I stumble upon a recipe at the precise time it’s meant to be made. In fact, I usually see recipes (for strawberries, tomatoes, beans, etc) well after the time they’re in season and content myself with bookmarking them for the future—and hoping I remember to make them when the time comes!

roasted parsnips

This recipe, on the other hand, is perfect for right now.  Spring dug parsnips are at their peak of flavor.  In fact, as I look for recipes revolving around parsnips, I keep stumbling upon creative concoctions, like Clyde Common’s recipe for parsnip cake.  I guess everyone, chefs and home cooks alike, is eager to capitalize on this root vegetable.

We paired our Windfall Farm parsnips with scallops from Blue Moon Fish.  In his book, Homegrown, Chef Michel Nischan recommends parboiling the parsnips before roasting, to truly bring out their sweetness.  Once the parsnip butter is finished, keep it warm while searing the scallops.  Brush each scallop with oil before cooking each side for 2-3 minutes.  That’s it!  A completely satisfying dinner that squeaks in under 50 minutes.  I highly recommend trying this recipe out soon, before the spring parsnips disappear!

Seared Scallops with Spring Parsnip Butter

Recipe Adapted from Homegrown

Serves 4


1 large (or 2 medium) spring parsnips, peeled

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice from ¼ lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped parsley (and a few sprigs)

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

8-12 sea scallops (depending on the serving size you need)

salt and pepper


1) Preheat the oven to 375 and oil a rimmed baking sheet.

2)    In a saucepan, cover the parsnips with an inch of water.  Bring the water to a simmer and parboil for 10 minutes.

3)    Lift the parsnips from the pan and let cool a bit, before slicing them into ½ inch thick pieces.  (*Save the cooking water—you’ll need it later!) Lay the pieces on the baking sheet and roast until browned (20-25 minutes).

4)    Put the parsnips in a food processor with lemon zest and lemon juice and pulse until the parsnips break down.  Add ¼ cup of the cooking water (slowly—1 tablespoon at a time) and process until the parsnips look like loose apple butter.  Finally, slowly pulse in the olive oil (add 1 tablespoon and see if you need more) and chopped parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.

5)    Heat a a large skillet over high heat.  Brush each scallop with grapeseed oil and salt and pepper.  Working in batches, put the scallops in the pan.  Don’t move them until the edges are brown (2-3 minutes).  Turn the scallops over and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.

6)    Divided the parsnip puree among the plates.  Set scallops on top of each and add a few parsley sprigs.  Enjoy!