Deny it all you want, but it's official: Summer's over. Autumn is here. Say goodbye to tomatoes and basil; say hello to potatoes and cabbage.
Hey, it's not so bad. Remember how apprehensive you were about Aaron Rodgers? Root crops and cruciferous vegetables have hidden talent - just give 'em a chance and they'll shine in soups, stews and other hearty fall fare. Two of them are even featured in a recipe that won the grand prize in REAP Food Group's 2008 Food for Thought Recipe Contest (which I helped organize and judge).
The dish, created by Claire Taylor of Madison, is a play on a classic cold-weather preparation - latkes, or potato pancakes, that traditional specialty of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. Potato pancakes are also an everyday favorite in a number of European countries, and they were a frequent main course on meatless Fridays in winter during my Roman Catholic youth.
As a kid I enjoyed their savory plainness and that likable contrast of crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. As an adult, I can't leave well enough alone, so I've often added to the standard mixture of potatoes, onion, egg and flour such accents as fresh herbs, shredded carrots or zucchini, or bits of sweet red peppers or ham.
But I've never left out the potatoes altogether, which is what Taylor did, replacing them with kohlrabi and beets. She explains: "When we arrived as transplants to Madison [in 2003] and attended our first Dane County Farmers' Market, my husband and I were struck by the sight of a mysterious object. It appeared to be the fruit of an alien tree, which we imagined was probably mottled with strange protrusions, perhaps dripping saliva-like sap, and almost certainly smelling of cabbage." Now that's apprehension.
It was, in fact, kohlrabi, and they passed it by. "But we recently encountered a few of these strange objects in our CSA share, and we discovered that when grated with beets they make a far more delicious version of our long-beloved latkes - both lighter and more flavorful than the traditional potato variety."
Beet and Kohlrabi Latkes with Horseradish Sour Cream
Recipe by Claire Taylor of Madison
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1-1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 1 scallion, chopped
- pinch of salt
- 1 medium-small kohlrabi
- 1 large or 2 small beets
- 1 small onion
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2-3 tablespoons flour
- salt and pepper
- cooking oil
Mix sauce ingredients in a bowl. Peel kohlrabi, beets and onion. Coarsely grate the vegetables. Place them in a strainer and press out liquid. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and mix them with egg, flour, and salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should cling together loosely.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium flame for a few minutes. (Skip this initial heating of the skillet if it is nonstick.) Generously film the bottom of the skillet with cooking oil and let it heat until hot but not smoking. For each latke, spoon 1/3 cup of the mixture into the skillet and press it out flat. Fry latkes until cooked through, 5-7 minutes per side. Serve with sauce. Makes 2-4 servings.
This originally ran in Isthmus under the headline, "Beets that can't be beat."