Every summer here at Food52, we publish more fruit ice creams. Strawberry that just happens to be vegan. Raspberry for sandwiching between cookies. Blackberry with sweetened condensed milk and lots of lemon. Even banana that only needs one ingredient (yes, it’s banana).
This is a shame. Fresh fruits and vegetables may be different, but they’re not that different. And vegetables have already proven themselves to be great desserts. Just think about carrot cake or zucchini cake or even cornbread. One might argue that because vegetables are less sweet, they’re less suited for dessert. But I’d argue right back that because vegetables are less sweet, they welcome sugar all the more.
All that said, the best way to become a vegetable ice cream believer is to make a vegetable ice cream and taste it yourself. These three are a good place to start:
Beet Ice Cream
This bright-eyed recipe is halfway between a sherbet and an ice cream, with scoopable creaminess and, yes, intense beet flavor. It starts with beet juice (Trader Joe’s sells a version I really like, but if you can’t find some near you, it’s easy to make your own). Next comes heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup (aka Crystallization Insurance). As frozen dessert Genius Max Falkowitz notes in his Saveur guide to ice cream, “I'm a big fan of corn syrup, which is only a third as sweet as table sugar, adds chewy viscosity, and allows me to boost the sugar level of a recipe for better texture without overwhelming the ice cream with sweetness.” I’m a big fan, too—and this beet ice cream’s silky consistency will show you why.
If you’ve ever had carrot cake or even glazed carrots, then you know that carrots love something sweet and creamy. The same is true here. In this Philadelphia-style ice cream, there are no eggs (and, accordingly, no egg tempering or custard making or custard messing up). The carrots—simmered in a pot of cream and brown sugar, then blitzed until smooth—add plenty of thickness on their own. Like the beet ice cream, there are two ingredients in this recipe that might surprise you: cider vinegar and salt. In short, these bring balance, making the sweetness bright but not cloying, and the richness satisfying but not heavy.
Just like creamed corn—but, uh, not. In this case, sugar and vanilla come to play, and the whole mixture gets blended into a smooth custard, then churned. To get the corniest flavor possible, the kernels and the cobs get simmered in cream; because if I’ve learned anything from the Genius creamless creamed corn (yes, seriously), it’s that there’s lots of magic in those cobs. Unlike the beet and carrot ice creams, where the flavors and colors are more Hey! Hi! Look at me!, the subtler corn lends itself to a slew of sundae toppings: hot fudge, whipped cream, and nut brittle, to name a few.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.