Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One Lonely Rutabaga

I have managed to avoid tasting rutabagas until now, purposefully bypassing this turnipy-looking root vegetable at the market if I recognized it or even knew what it was. Some root vegetables are old, familiar friends, things like carrots, potatoes  beets, radishes, and onions. Garlic, horseradish and ginger might slide onto the favored root vegetable list too, if you consider them vegetables. Many other root vegetables are just occasional acquaintances; that would be yams and sweet potatoes, jicama, daikon and the like. But turnips, parsnips and rutabagas - no, thank you very much. Not until this week, when I decided to try a rutabaga.

This is not an attractive vegetable, its mottled two-toned and hairy skin won't win any prizes for beauty. I rummaged around the produce display, seeking the least ugly, smallest rutabaga of the lot. Now what? I might have cut the globe into large chunks for oven-roasting, but it seemed a waste of electricity for one small rutabaga. Instead I settled for dicing the thing and cooking it with a bit of water in the microwave until barely tender. Step Two: drain, add salt, pepper and a pat of butter. Step Three: taste. Hmmmm, not bad. RL and I nibbled one bite after another and decided it resembled a potato in texture and taste. There wasn't a strong, distinctive rutabaga flavor, instead we tasted salt, pepper and butter on an almost sweet white potato. 

So what was the big deal about avoidance?! For starters, they are unfamiliar and ugly. Rutabagas, a cross between the turnip and wild cabbage, have a reputation for being bitter when cooked. One article (1) reported they are prized as animal fodder. Okay, nothing like a bitter taste and value as cattle feed to draw culinary interest in an ugly vegetable! Rutabagas are, however, high in vitamin C and low in carbohydrates, lower than potatoes, which gives them a few high marks health wise. 

Having sampled one rutabaga and found it palatable, I'm willing to work with this root vegetable again. My first project might be potato rolls, replacing 20-30% of the potatoes with mashed rutabagas. I do love my bread, and this would fit the #TwelveLoaves theme for October. Several of the recipes below sound almost tempting as well. 

Rutabaga Oven Fries 
Carrots and Rutabagas with Lemon and Honey
Mashed Root Vegetables with Bacon Vinaigrette
Roasted Rutabaga Beer Cheese Soup
Rutabaga Gratin

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