Spicing Up Stale
I’ll just come out with it.
This eating locally in winter is getting a little stale.
I said it.
As Barbara Kingsolver noted in her Animal Vegetable Miracle memoirs, March is the leanest of months for those of us interested in eating seasonally and locally. According to Kingsolver, Native Americans actually referred to March as “hungry month”. You’d think March would be bright and fresh, what with it being the beginning of spring. But the problem is, you plant in the spring, but you don’t harvest much until summer. Granted, there are a few things on their way that I can’t wait to gobble up…asparagus, for one!
So it is that March is, in my experience, full of root vegetables with skins that have wrinkled as their moisture evaporated while being stored over the winter and the slim pickings of frozen and dried preserves, namely tomatillo sauce in my case. Why I ever thought I’d use that much frozen tomatillo sauce, heavens only know…
This is an awful lot of lamenting for someone who actually has something wonderful and delicious to talk about. Remember that revolution I talked about a ways back? No? Come on, people, you should have been working on your signs and chants all these months! Viva la Rutabaga Revolution!!!
I have really come to adore rutabagas amongst the slim pickings of spring. They really just seem fresh, even after sitting around for four or five months. I think in part it’s their lovely orange color in dishes that does the trick. This sunset hue is also what made me think to exchange the sweet potatoes called for in the original recipe with chunks of rutabaga instead.
Warm spices, bright colors, a little kick…this dish is far from boring and stale. In fact, it’s really much more like a breath of fresh spring-time air!
Rutabaga with Ginger and Lemon
Adapted from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes
2 lbs (1 large) rutabaga
2 T. canola oil
½ t. mustard seeds
½ t. red pepper flakes
1 large shallot, very thinly sliced
1 t. finely grated fresh ginger
½ t. ground turmeric
Generous pinch of coarse salt
1 lemon, juiced
Peel and dice the rutabaga into 1 inch cubes. Place in a medium saucepan with just enough water to cover and boil just until tender. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in the saucepan over high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds and cover to shield the splattering. When the seeds stop sputtering, quickly add the red pepper flakes, ginger and shallot. Saute until the shallot is lightly browned, then add the turmeric and stir for a minute.
Add the cooked rutabaga and salt and toss gently to coat with spices. Cover and steam over low heat until the flavors meld, about five minutes. Add lemon juice and toss. Serve hot or at room temperature.