Lawson: Once-banned parsnips sneak onto menu

Kate Lawson
Simply the Best

Some days I’m amazed by how far our palates have come. By “our,” I mean the Lawson household, where some foods, particularly vegetables, were uniformly dismissed before even being tried. But inroads have been made, and I’m proud and rather relieved that once-banished broccoli and beets have been welcomed back and the presence of parsnips doesn’t elicit that “yuck” face.

A few years ago, a friend and I were planning to make a nice dinner, and she wanted to create a parsnip dish. I told her to keep the parsnip addition on the “QT” as a certain someone made it known that he “hated” parsnips. Unfortunately, she forgot about my missive, and when she pronounced grandly that there were going to be on the menu, he nixed the plan.

My, how things have changed. These sweet potato and parsnip latkes from the website that I sneaked into our dinner last week went way beyond convincing the parsnip hater of how good and sweet these pretty root vegetables can be. These would make a delicious addition to your Rosh Hashanah dinner. I haven’t attempted turnips or rutabagas yet; I don’t want to press my luck.

Note: Hey, everyone, I’m on Twitter now. Follow me: @KateLawson14.

Sweet Potato Parsnip Latkes

Recipe adapted from

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

2 medium-sized leeks, washed and thinly sliced

1 pound sweet potatoes (usually about 1 large)

1 pound parsnips (number will vary depending upon size)

½teaspoon coarse salt

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

1 pinch ground nutmeg

4 ounces feta, crumbled (a creamy French style is nice)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup matzo meal

½ cup canola oil for frying (amount will vary depending upon how many skillets you want to have going)

Melt the butter (or heat the olive oil) in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until the leeks have softened and are beginning to color (10 minutes).

While the leeks are cooking, wash and peel the sweet potato and parsnips. Grate on the coarse holes of a box grater and place in a large bowl (if you have no patience for hand-grating, you can use the shredding disk on a food processor, but place about ¼ of the mixture back in the bowl of the processor with the regular blade and pulse a few times). Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, feta, egg and matzo meal. Stir to combine. Mix in the cooked leeks.

Pour the canola oil to a depth of ½ inch in a frying pan — you can use the pan used for the leeks, and additional pans if you’d like to make quick work of it. Heat the oil over a medium flame until hot — if you drop in a shred of the latke mixture, it should bubble vigorously. Shape 3 tablespoons of the latke mixture into a round shape (pack a ¼ cup measure ¾ full), and place in the oil. Flatten slightly to form a small pancake. Repeat as many times as your pan space allows. Cook the latkes until well-browned, 5-7 minutes, then flip and brown the other side. These latkes are more delicate than standard potato pancakes (especially when warm), so be delicate. When the second side has cooked, place on a plate lined with brown paper, stacking as needed.

If you’re not serving at once, layer the cooled latkes in a sealed container with parchment between the layers, and freeze. To serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the latkes on a cookie sheet and cook until they have colored a bit more and are heated through and sizzling (10-15 minutes). Serves 4.

Per serving: 600 calories; 39 g fat (9 g saturated fat; 59 percent calories from fat); 53 g carbohydrates; 12 g sugar; 139 mg cholesterol; 644 mg sodium; 11 g protein; 8 g fiber.