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Mushroom Ice Cream, Anyone? Chefs Turning To Veggies For Dessert

Dec 7, 2012

Chefs at some of the most cutting edge restaurants in the country are incorporating vegetables into their desserts in ways that, at first glance, might not seem very dessert-y.

In fact, a recent article in the trade magazine Food Technology lists things like celery sorbet with celery salad, goat cheese mousse balls, macerated figs and balsamic vinegar at Del Posto in New York; sweet corn crème brulée with popcorn shoots and candied bacon at Tilth in Seattle; and a candy cap mushroom ice cream sandwich at Americano Restaurant & Bar in San Francisco.

That made us here at The Salt wonder, is there any nutritional value in adding veggies to dessert?

Actually, the answer is yes.

Mary Ann Johnson, a nutrition professor at the University of Georgia and a spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition, says the body is more able to process a group of vitamins found in vegetables called carotenoids when they're paired with a fat. "The fat helps the body absorb them," Johnson says.

It's the same reason why adding a little bit of butter or sour cream is to your potato is OK, or a little full-fat salad dressing is good for greens — at least according to a recent small study.

Johnson also says these new kinds of desserts could help children develop a taste for vegetables, which will serve them well as they grow up — unless of course the dessert is totally overpowered by the sugar and fat. As with everything, moderation is key.

But chefs are probably not making veggie desserts to boost our nutrition.

Karen Nachay, associate editor of Food Technology, says when restaurants base their menus on seasonal, farm-based goods, they often wind up with an abundance of one ingredient or another and have to find something to do with it.

"They have a lot of the produce, they have fun experimenting," Nachay says. "In turn you have a lot of these creative dishes being offered."

So, all you parents out there, consider swapping your cartons of chocolate and vanilla and replace them with mushroom ice cream and celery sorbet. We're sure your kids will thank you — some day.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.