I don't believe in hiding vegetables. I'll puree them into soup (cauliflower soup, celery soup, even lettuce soup). I'll sauce them up with cheese (zucchini rice casserole, zucchini gratin). I'll shred them or chop them and fry them up into pancakes (bacon corn fritters, spinach pancakes, zucchini fritters). These are vegetables transformed, not disguised. I see this as a completely legitimate way to get kids to eat more vegetables.
I'm also a fan of trompe l'oeil. Inside an old European cathedral, this artistic technique, literally translated from the French as "fools the eye," means wood painted to look like marble. In my kitchen, trompe l'oeil means vegetables other than white potatoes cut and cooked like french fries.
I have nothing against potatoes - in fact, it's my family's overwhelming love for potatoes that makes this slick family-feeding technique possible in the first place. I've made "fake fries" out of carrots, sweet potatoes, kohlrabi, turnips, black radishes, zucchini and broccoli stems. Cut in batons, toss with olive oil and salt, oven-roast on a baking sheet until brown and crisp. If you can pick it up with your fingers and dip it in ketchup, it's a winner with my family.
My favorite french fry substitute is the sweet, pale parsnip, whose sugars concentrate and flavors intensify exponentially when prepared this way. I've been known to make these for dinner and eat the whole batch standing at the counter before I've even called the kids to the table. No one loves fries more than I do.
Baked parsnip fries
A great alternative to traditional french fries, these parsnip fries bake up sweet and crispy.
- 2 pounds parsnips, washed and peeled
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.Cut the parsnips into batons. It doesn't really matter exactly how you do it, but you're looking to get the pieces more or less the same size so they cook at the same speed. Parsnips tend to be much thicker at the top than at the root end, so this may take some creative cutting. No need to be obsessive about it; do the best you can.Scatter the parsnip batons on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle over the olive oil, and sprinkle on the salt. Using your hands, toss the parsnip pieces until the oil and salt are well distributed. Spread the parsnip pieces out into a single layer.Roast the parsnip fries 20-30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes and, if you like, tossing them around with a spatula once or twice to brown them evenly. Take them out when they've got nice brown edges and spots, but don't let them burn - blackened parsnip fries are bitter (and yes, I speak from experience). Serve immediately.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-6 servings