Garden Vegetable Cakes & Mango Salsa

Back when I was still working professionally as a cook/chef, I did two stints at the Reading Terminal Market in Center City Philadelphia. One was at a mainly vegetarian soup and salad stand, the other job was at an upscale gourmet prepared food restaurant. Both restaurants were a bit ahead and a bit behind their time. Both work experiences left me with many funny stories, some great recipes and a few battle scars. Having an opportunity to work in the Reading Terminal Market was a unique experience. The building and merchants have a long storied history in Philadelphia and I'm proud to have been a part that history. My first office job that started me on the path to being a bookkeeper, payroll and office manager was with the Reading Company - back when they still owned the Market. As a cook, I worked for two different food venues in the Reading Terminal Market. While employed in the Reading Terminal, I was an extra in the movie, National Treasure, when a scene for the movie was filmed there. David O'Neil wrote a book about the history of the Reading Terminal Market, in which I am listed; I worked with him during Reading Company's final days as owner of the Market.

My job at the vegetarian stand taught me a lot about working quickly and how to make a lot of good food out few ingredients. As I am sure it's no surprise, given my hotheaded temper and kitchen stress level - I fought in a few battles during over my 8 months while I worked there. I had previously worked at Whole Foods Market, the bastion of cleanliness, superbly prepared foods and elegant food styling displays. We had ample room in which to work; the best food to use; and the equipment was the latest in kitchen technology. Moving into the world of vegetarian cooking a decidedly low-tech affair. There was a lot of laughter and tears, and opportunities both learned and lost. It was hard to adapt to the laid back pace after coming from the hyper-sanitation and corporate environment of an industrial kitchen. There were other issues - some of which had to do with my inability to deal well with stress, working with a distracted staff and learning to make-do with less. Overall, the experience taught me a lot about cooking and myself; lessons that I still use to this day.

One of the best recipes I learned to make was a root vegetable "burger" or "cake". I made them almost daily; aside from the very good soups, they were the best selling item we made. I made so many in my 8 months that I no longer need to follow a recipe. We would have so many customers during the Flower Show in March we would have to cranked out hundreds of garden veggie cakes - my hands were stained orange from handling and grating all the carrots. Even though my experiences were hard earned, I did take away a love of soup and vegetarian cookery. This is one of my favorite vegetable recipes. The garden vegetable cakes are nutritional and tasty. They freeze well once baked. They can be made as mini burgers and served on miniature party buns, fantastic as hors d' oeuvres. You can also make a larger thinner cake - about the size of a large tortilla, which can be baked and then used as a pizza base for an all vegetable pizza.
Garden Vegetable Cakes - Ingredients
  • 1 Medium Sweet Potato
  • 1 Medium/Large Idaho Potato
  • 1 Large Parsnip
  • 2 Large Carrots
  • 1 Large Yellow or Spanish Onion
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat or All Purpose Flour – (to start, use more if needed)

Equipment:

  • Box Grater, or Shredding Blade & Food processor
  • Sheet pan
  • Parchment paper, tin foil or a Silpat for baking
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable or Light Olive Oil for baking

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375ยบ
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment, tin foil or a silpat and coat with oil – using enough to oven-fry your vegetable cakes – but not so much that you are deep frying them! Set the baking sheet aside.
  3. Scrub and peel all the vegetables. Either using the coarse side of a box grater, or the shredding disk of a food processor, grate the vegetables. Squeeze out excess water from the shredded vegetables.
  4. Put all the shredded vegetables into a large bowl & mix until well combined. Add the eggs, cumin & salt & pepper. Mix again until incorporated.
  5. Add flour, ¼ cup at a time, until mixture will hold together and form a sticky ball. Use more flour if necessary, but do not use too much or else your garden cakes will be too heavy.
  6. Use a 4 or 6 oz ice-cream scoop or a ½ measuring cup, to scoop out the vegetable mixture and place onto the baking sheet. Smooth down the tops so it resembles a patty.
  7. Bake 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
  8. With a spatula, carefully turn the patties over and bake another 15-20 minutes.
  9. Garden cakes are done when they are medium golden brown on both sides and tender inside. Garden cakes can be served hot or warm with salsa, as a garden burger on a bun.
When I made the garden vegetable cakes for the recipe photo shoot, I whipped up a quick batch of Mango Salsa. Here's the skinny on this quick salsa:










  • 3 Plum Tomatoes - cut in half & seeded, then small dice
  • 2 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • 1/2 Jalapeno - seeded & minced
  • 1 Ripe Mango - peeled and small dice
  • 1/2 Medium White Onion - small dice
  • 1/2 Small-Medium Red Bell Pepper - small dice
  • 1 Lime - Zest & Juice - use a micro planer to zest the lime then juice it
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro - loosely packed - rough chop
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
  • 4-5 Dashes Hot Sauce - optional
Directions:
Prepare all the vegetables and fruit as directed. Add each diced, minced or prepared item to a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Add in both the lime zest and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Season with hot sauce if desired. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving. Will hold up to 3 days tightly covered and refrigerated.

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