Here's a recipe for you when you are craving spring. It comes from my friend and celebrity chef Michel Nischan, who is a big advocate for healthy eating. For him, this time of year means spring-dug parsnips. The sweet root benefits from blanching and then roasting to bring out its over-wintered sweetness — and when it’s pureed, its texture is similar to very smooth apple butter.
1 large or two medium spring-dug parsnips, peeled (about 10 ounces)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, about ½ lemon’s worth
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 packed tablespoons freshly chopped chervil
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
12 large dry sea scallops (about ¾ pound)
6 generous sprigs fresh chervil
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, simmer parsnips in just enough water to cover; cook about 15 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes. Remove parsnips from pan and discard all but ¼ cup of cooking liquid. Set aside. Slice parsnips into 1/2-inch-thick strips and lay on a lightly oiled, rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until nicely browned; turn parsnips at least once for even browning.
Using a food processor, pulse together parsnips, lemon zest, and juice until parsnips break down. With the motor running, add reserved parsnip liquid 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture resembles loose apple butter. Pulse in olive oil and chopped chervil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Heat a large, dry sauté pan over high heat. Brush each scallop on all sides with grapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper. Place scallops in hot pan and do not move them for 2 to 3 minutes, or until edges are well browned. Turn scallops over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Place on a warm plate and let rest for 2 minutes—any juices that collect, stir into parsnip puree. Divide the parsnip puree onto 6 warmed appetizer plates. Set two scallops on top of parsnips and garnish with fresh chervil. Yield 6 servings
Adapted from Michel Nischan, The Dressing Room.
Annie B. Copps is a senior editor at Yankee Magazine. Annie oversees the magazine's food coverage, both as an editor and as a contributor of feature stories and columns.