Root Vegetable Bites

Root Vegetable Bites
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root vegetable bites
Root vegetable bites — a tasty way to use rutabagas.

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.

Root Vegetable Bites

Yield: about 20

Root Vegetable Bites


  • About 5 medium-sized root vegetables, such as turnips or rutabagas
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs or croutons
  • 2 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal, or additional bread crumbs

Abbreviated Instructions

Peel root vegetables and place in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water by at least an inch and add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and simmer until tender and easy to mash.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.

Drain cooked vegetables completely and let cool. Return to the saucepan and mash, draining off additional liquid if needed. Add bread crumbs or croutons and mash in, thickening the vegetable mash. Add cheese and egg, stirring to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If needed, add additional bread crumbs to make the vegetable mash thick enough to shape easily.

Place cornmeal or additional bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.

Scoop out about a tablespoon of vegetables, roll into a ball, and roll in cornmeal mixture. Place ball on a lined baking sheet and flatten into a patty about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with remaining vegetable mixture.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until crisp, flipping the patties halfway through if needed.

Serve immediately, preferably with a sauce for dipping.

Ingredient discussion:

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:

boiling root vegetables
The salt in the water helps to bring out the flavor by seasoning the roots, and cold water helps to prevent the starches from dissolving out of the roots.

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.

draining root vegetables
Unlike mashed potatoes, you’ll be shaping these with your hands. Let the roots cool and dry out.
adding egg
The egg works as a binder so your bites don’t just fall apart into something resembling root vegetable granola.

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.

root vegetable bite coating
You can add any spices you like; we kept it salt-and-pepper simple.

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.

root vegetable bites
You could leave them as balls. We flattened to increase the surface area — more crispy parts.

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.

Worth the trouble?

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