Halloween is a week away, and you know I like to think of special recipes for all the holidays.
This year I thought I’d go “creepy” for Halloween. No, there won’t be any gory decorated cakes, or dinners made with beef tongue or calf’s liver. I thought I’d think of something kids are even more afraid of: vegetables!
But I’m going to be very sly about it. “Oh, you would like another brownie? I always told you that you should give beets a chance.” Or that creamy pie that you think is pumpkin? No, no, it’s made from parsnips. Or for adults that don’t like vegetables, how about a pie that looks like coconut cream but is actually made from spaghetti squash?
I’m not joking about these, these are real recipes that I found when I first started searching for “recipes with a secret ingredient,” because that is the theme of an upcoming dinner party I’m attending. I can’t tell you how many vegetables they have put into brownies. Even I scrunch up my nose at the thought of avocado brownies or spinach brownies (I don’t think even chocolate can cover up that minerally taste of spinach), but I’ve made a chocolate beet cake before, and I thought that would easily be converted into delicious chocolate brownies. Side note, did you know that beets were the original source of the red coloring in red velvet cake?
Next, I’m slightly grossed out by this tomato soup cake, even though I bet you wouldn’t be able to name that flavor once you tried it, it would just taste like a sweet cake. I mean, condensed tomato soup can be pretty sweet — to the point that a few years ago I started comparing the nutritional label on several brands to try to find one that had less added sugar. With cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, people might just think it’s a pumpkin spice cake. (But you’ll know the truth.)
And finally, the pies. I can’t stand the texture of coconut, so I might actually like a mock coconut pie with soft, tender spaghetti squash better than the real thing. And for the parsnip pie ... this one’s kind of out there. I really like parsnips, with their unusual flavor sort of between a carrot and a turnip, but I realize not everyone does. But this pie really does LOOK like pumpkin pie, so it might make for a nice Halloween TRICK on a loved one. A trick that hopefully turns out to be a TREAT.
Beat the sugar and eggs together in a mixing bowl until light and frothy. Beat in the butter, lemon juice, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the spaghetti squash. Pour the mixture into the prebaked pie shell. If desired, dust the top with nutmeg and cinnamon.
Bake the pie in preheated oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool on a rack before serving. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.
2 pounds medium parsnips, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate and gently fit it into the pan, lifting the edges and pressing the dough into the corners with your fingers. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold the overhanging dough underneath itself and crimp the edges. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Line the dough with foil or parchment, fill with dried beans or pie weights, and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Carefully remove the foil and weights and continue to bake until the bottom looks dry and the edges are light golden, an additional 5 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before filling (leave the oven at 350 degrees).
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the parsnips and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the parsnips in a colander and let them steam under a clean kitchen towel for about 5 minutes. Return the parsnips to the pot and mash them with a potato masher, keeping the mixture rather rough. Measure 2 cups of the parsnip mash; save any extra for another use.
Purée the 2 cups of mashed parsnips and the buttermilk in a blender until smooth. Transfer the purée to a mixing bowl. With a whisk, beat in the sugar, eggs, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, whisking until the sugar dissolves.
Pour the filling into the piecrust and bake until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the filling comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour. Serve at room temperature.