A Ruta What?
I toyed with calling this post “Oops, I Did It Again” but thought better of it, considering what little I know of pop culture seems to indicate now is not the time to be bringing up Britney-esse. That girl’s got issues. But that’s beside the point. The real point is that I’ve once again found a tasty way to serve up turnips, the one vegetable that seems to typically throw my taste buds a curveball.
But this post isn’t about the turnips. No siree. It’s about the rutabaga. “A ruta what?” is exactly the response I got from D when I started peeling it. I just love saying it. Rutagbaba. Rutabaga. Rutabaga. Okay, I’ll stop. It’s a fun name, don’t you think? I personally think Volkswagon should call their next cute little convertible model Rutabaga. After all, if you’re willing to name one after a furry little woodland creature, surely it’s not too much of a stretch to delve into the vegetable realm.
The inside joke here though is that I’ve never cooked a rutabaga before. I have eaten it. Just didn’t have the pleasure of making a fresh rutabaga’s acquaintance until working at the Headhouse Market (quick plug here for official opening market day, May 4th. Mark your calendars!). A starchy root vegetable much like all the others, the rutabaga draws its distinction by being an old Celtic symbol for a damned soul when hollowed out and carved with a face. Creepy, eh? It also fell out of favor in war-torn Europe when it was all that was left to eat. I guess people just got plain sick of it.
Superstitions and bitter history aside, this particular root vegetable is, in my mind, a very interesting cross between a sweet potato and a turnip. Its orange flesh is high in beta-carotene and potassium, just like the sweet potato. But it is not nearly as sweet, though definitely sweeter than a turnip, and retains some of the lighter turnip-y taste. I find sweet potatoes to be occassionally overwhelming with their flavor, so for me this balance in the ill-reputed rutabaga is perfect.
If you haven’t tried a rutabaga, there’s no excuse not to since it’s extremely versatile – it’s good raw or, when cooked, in a hundred variations of roasted, mashed, boiled, baked, stuffed, or fried. Anything you can do with a potato, you can do with a rutabaga and then some. In fact, I bet anything you can do with a butternut squash you can do with a rutabaga too. This time around, I combined it with turnips in a lovely herb-infused-browned-in-butter dish.
It’s time for a rutabaga revolution! Who’s with me?!? Just to prove how committed I am to the cause, here’s a list of recipes from the archives that I am certain can use a rutabaga, either in addition to or as a substitute for listed ingredients.
String Bean and Turnip Potpie
Caramelized Apples and Turnips
Butternut Squash and Green Bean Curry
Roasted Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Mash
Spicy Corn and Kohlrabi
Spelt Salad with Kohlrabi and Radish
Butter-fried Parsnips with Pomegranate Sauce
Sorrel Carrot Potato Soup
Roasted Garlic and Turnip Mash
Now, march forth and spread the rutabaga good word! Just be ready for the inevitable question, “A ruta what?”.
P.S. – I almost forgot to share what excites me most about this post. D was so very generous as to gift me with a new macro lens for my camera so I can finally start shooting the close-ups I’ve been so desperately missing since switching to my Canon! Now I just need to adjust to its finer points, and we’ll be off to the races with some really wonderful detailed shots of the textures and colors of the vegetable world!
Herb-Mixed Turnips and Rutabagas
Adapted from The Everything Vegetarian Cookbook
2 large turnips, peeled
1 large rutabaga, peeled
2 T. butter
1 T. chopped parsley
1 t. chopped thyme
1 t. chopped rosemary
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. fresh panko or bread crumbs, browned in a teaspoon of butter
Quarter turnips and rutabaga. Cook turnip and rutabaga seperately in salted boiling water until they are al dente; approximately 10 minutes for turnips and 15 for rutabaga. Drain.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt butter. Add the turnip and rutabaga; cook over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss to coat and remove from stove. Serve immediately topped with breadcrumbs.