A downside to being members of the CSA is that we sometimes get vegetables that aren’t our favorites. We always try to use them, though, because we know that farming is really hard work — just try to imagine what’s involved with growing, picking, and delivering 7-8 different types of produce each and every week for about 500 people — and we just can’t let that effort go to waste. We also try to find recipes that show off the best attributes and flavors of these vegetables, rather than masking or covering them up with, say, cheesy sauces. Sometimes we can’t do it.
In particular, we have trouble with some of the root vegetables we get, such as turnips and rutabagas. Sure, they grow well, and they’re good for you, but, to us, turnips have a sort of metallic flavor that’s hard to describe. It’s just a bit off-putting, and it seems to get stronger as the turnips get bigger. We’ve tried roasting, we’ve tried curries, but the flavor is still there. So, this time, we’re going all out and making Root Vegetable Bites. Not to brag or anything, but this is another 100% Scratchin’ It recipe; however, we’ll also say that it’s pretty straightforward.
Use pretty much any sort of root vegetable you have: turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, celeriac, just as long as you think it’ll mash well. We used a mix of turnips (2 large) and rutabagas (4 small to medium). For the pictures below, we used croutons instead of bread crumbs, but we just mashed them into crumbs as we added them to the vegetables. They absorb some of the moisture from the roots. You may need more or less, depending on your vegetables. Eggs, are from free-range hens. It’s better for the hens, and that means better eggs. Finally, we used some wheat bran from our coating. We’ve ground and sifted our own flour and we end up with this left over — waste not, want not.
Procedure in detail:
Boil roots. Peel the roots and cut them into rough cubes. Try to make them about the same size so everything will be done at roughly the same time. If you think of it (we didn’t), cut the roots that take longer to cook into slightly smaller pieces. Place all the cubes in a large saucepan, cover with at least an inch of cold water, and add the salt. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the cubes are easily pierced with a knife, 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of your chunks, the roots, the …. You get it.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line some baking sheets with silicone baking mats or baking parchment to make for easy cleanup.
Make root mash. Drain the root pieces and let them cool. You’ll be getting your hands into the mixture, so let it, really let it, cool. And dry. Now, take a potato masher and work your mashing magic. Keep mashing until pretty smooth. If you had something like turnips, drain off some of the liquid that gets mashed out — boy, those things are full of liquid, huh? While you’re mashing, add the bread crumbs (croutons work, too; you can mash them into crumb-like pieces), the cheese, and the egg. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Make coating. In a shallow bowl, season about 1/2 cup of cornmeal with salt and pepper. We used about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Stir around to avoid rolling one of your root vegetable nuggets solely in salt and pepper.
Shape and coat. Scoop out about a tablespoon of vegetable mash, shape into a ball, and roll in the coating mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet and press into a small patty with your hand. Repeat with remaining root mash (or RM, as it’s known in the trade).
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake until crispy on the outside, turning the patties partway through, if needed. For us, it took about 35 to 45 minutes to get the root vegetable bites baked to a crispy crunch.
We think these would be great with a dipping sauce, so we recommend that you make (or, perhaps, buy) some sauce that you can use. If you like ketchup, even that would work, or, better yet, cocktail sauce. Even without the sauce, this was a great way to eat some of those hard to use root vegetables, with the crispy outside and cheesy inside, and we had no trouble eating all 20 for lunch. We’ll say four on the star-o-meter.