“Red Flannel Latkes” (aka Vegetable Pancakes)


I love to start a weekend off with a savory breakfast. Skip all those sweet breads and pastries; just give me a veggie-filled omelet or scrambled eggs, hash browns (the real kind, not those greasy patties), and salsa and I’m set for the day.

My refrigerator had been filling up this week with small portions of various fresh vegetables, and I wanted to empty it out so I could justify going to the store for more. An old standby for this kind of day is my endlessly adjusted recipe for potato pancakes (latkes). Today I had some roasted beets that needed to be used up too, so I decided to do a variation on what my Mom often made as a supper dish, Red Flannel Hash. The result was a plate of very colorful patties with a very savory taste.

The very brightness of these patties could be a little off-putting for some, but they might just strike a fun chord for kids used to lots of artificially bright snack foods. As noted below, it is easy to vary the mix of vegetables so you could just cut back a little (or a lot) on the beet component. Or, if you are really ambitious, for a Christmas brunch, make these beet latkes and then make another batch with mostly spinach and/or broccoli, for both red and green options.

What I have included below is a photo of the vegetables I used today, with the recipe free-form enough to accommodate a large number of variations. Obviously, your choices will determine the overall nutritive value of the breakfast, but consider the kinds of nutrients found on this single plate of food:  antioxidants, Vitamins A, C, D (the dry milk powder), protein, “good” fat (olive oil), and fiber. And while there will be some bit of oil in the preparation, the overall calorie load is still quite low.

Another good thing about these patties is that you can often include vegetables that may not be “acceptable” on their own to one or more family members. Start slowly, with mostly potatoes, onions, and some carrots, but then slip in a little spinach or broccoli. (Or, if the kids like broccoli but not spinach, include some of each, so that the “green” will just seem to be their usual favorite.) Increase the amount of carrots or grated butternut squash gradually too. Serve these up with ketchup as you would French fries, and don’t worry about making them very low salt, at least at first. That too will come gradually as the flavors of the vegetables become more familiar–and liked–over time.

This is really a time when a processor is a wonderful kitchen tool. However, if you don’t have one, you could use an old-fashioned grater for most of the vegetables and finely dice things like peppers, onion, or celery. The key is to keep the pieces small enough that all the vegetables will blend their flavors well.

A note on the other ingredients:  The corn meal provides body for the mix and will absorb some of the liquids from the grated vegetables. The dried milk powder performs a similar function. If you don’t keep this on hand, you could substitute half a cup of unbleached flour, though the nutrition (and flavor) will not be as good.

Now it’s time to try this out. Check out the vegetable crisper and put together your own variation on these savory patties, whether for a weekend breakfast or a midweek supper. Either way, you may find this to be a new favorite go-to recipe for getting veggies into even the most intransigent eaters.

Red Flannel Latkes

4 c mixed shredded vegetables–be sure to include at least one potato (for body) and 1 medium onion and, for the red flannel version, at least one large beet
1/2 c yellow corn meal
1/2 c dried milk powder
1 t seasoning salt, or to taste
1 t each basil and oregano, or your own favorite herbs
4 eggs
olive oil

1.  Shred vegetables in a processor or grate and dice as needed. When measuring the four cups, press the vegetables lightly in the measuring cup.

2.  Stir the corn meal, dried milk powder, and seasonings into the vegetables, blending well. Set aside for about 15 minutes or so. This will allow the dry ingredients to absorb some of the juices from the processed vegetables.
3.  Add the eggs to the vegetable mixture and stir well.
4.  Pour about a teaspoon or so of olive oil into a cast iron or other heavy non-stick skillet and heat on medium high until the oil is just shimmering.

5.  Drop tablespoons of the batter into the pan and flatten with the back of a spatula. Cook until the bottom is well browned, about 3 to 4 minutes, and turn. Flatten again–you want to be sure the centers are cooked through before the outsides are too brown. If necessary, turn the heat down a bit.
6.  Remove the patties from the pan, placing on paper towels to drain if desired. Add another teaspoon or so of oil and add more batter. Repeat these steps until all the batter is used.

This serves two to four, depending on the number of side dishes being served with the patties.

Possible Vegetables to Choose
Here is a plate of latkes made with a mix of potatoes, zucchini, and carrots: 

Unless otherwise noted, the vegetables you choose should be raw rather than cooked

  • onions–a must!
  • potato–especially helpful in holding the finished product together; use raw potatoes or firm, boiled or baked potatoes
  • carrots–these can be raw or cooked but still firm
  • peppers–bell peppers, poblanos, green chilies, whatever you like and have on hand
  • celery–probably better to dice rather than put through the processor; at least with mine, the processor tends to leave long strings that don’t soften on cooking
  • cabbage–may be a bit surprising, but this is a wonderful addition for both sweetness and depth of flavor
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • zucchini or summer squash–you may need to drain these after shredding if they are a large part of your vegetable mix
  • raw winter squash, grated
  • greens of all kinds–spinach, kale, collards, etc.; just make sure they are well chopped or shredded
  • parsley or cilantro
  • garlic
  • roasted beets

Vegetables I haven’t found especially workable, but you might have better success:
green beans
peas, either in the pod or not
tomatoes–way too juicy to work well

I have never tried asparagus, cucumbers or eggplant and don’t plan to, for a variety of reasons. Haven’t tried kohlrabi either, but I would guess that would be fine. 

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