The words “vegetable” and “dessert” generally do not appear next to each other, but right now, we’re making an exception. Pastry chefs around the city have been pushing the boundary between sweet and savory, finding flavor combinations in the unlikeliest of places for some distinctive desserts.
Try these sweet summer vegetable versions now before the heartier vegetable variations roll out for fall. Parsnip cheesecake, anyone?
Fennel & Iris
The name says it all. A staple in this cozy café, fennel makes an appearance in signature lunch dishes and the delicious cookies. If you’re skeptical of veggie desserts, try the fennel pizzelles ($0.50 each). The slight licorice flavor of the cracked fennel seed perfectly substitutes the anise used in the traditional Italian cookie. If you’re lucky, you may get to sample one with your tea.
1652 W. Belmont Ave., Roscoe Village, 773-687-8442
Let’s be honest: carrot cake, perhaps the most well known vegetable dessert of all time, gets a little boring. This one, however, turns it up a notch or two. The cake is stuffed with coconut and pecan filling (like that of German chocolate cake), with a scoop of smooth carrot sorbet and dollops of passion fruit curd on the side, and a sprinkling of honey-roasted pecans ($10). You’re never going to want regular carrot cake again.
120 E. Delaware Pl., Gold Coast, 312-799-4900
Okay, an avocado isn’t exactly a vegetable by scientific definitions. But the savory flavor and creamy texture make this fruit acceptable on our list. The vegan avocado ice cream, made from simple syrup and avocados spun like regular ice cream, creates a creamy texture and subtle flavor ($8). It sits beside slightly tart Key lime angel food cake (which also happens to be gluten-free and vegan) with basil syrup and a grapefruit reduction. A delicious poppyseed tuile adds some necessary crunch.
1460 W. Chicago Ave., Noble Square, 312-243-7100
The Valrhona Grand Cru gianduja dark chocolate cannoli should be consumed if only for its heavenly name, but it also gets paired with a sweet potato flan ($10). The roasted sweet potatoes provide natural sugar to the flan, complementing but not overpowering the dark chocolate. Candied orange zest, chocolate sorbetto, and balsamic pearls top this dish, the perfect veggie dessert for any adventurous chocolate lover.
671 N. St. Clair St., Streeterville, 312-642-1800
Girl & the Goat
The ultimate vegetable dessert comes in the form of a corn kulfi ($8), a traditional Indian treat that resembles a slightly firm ice cream. This version tastes just like summer sweet corn, and gets topped with a salad’s worth of other vegetables: lemon syrup-poached eggplant, moist zucchini cake, tomato caramel sauce, corn whipped cream, and corn cookie crunch (suggestive of a sophisticated Cap’n Crunch).
809 W. Randolph St., West Town, 312-492-6262