The Rutabaga. It sounds like the name of a retro car, like a cross between a Studebaker and a Winnebago. It might just be me, but this inconspicuous root vegetable is puzzling, and frankly, doesn’t look any more appealing than a Studebaker-Winnebago hybrid would. A waxy turnip-like nub that’s slightly purple-brown in color, the only thing that caught my eye about the humble vegetable was its price – on sale for 99 cents per pound. I loaded up my grocery basket with rutabagas.
Soon, I found myself in a conundrum, as I often do. As a thrifty shopper, my budget decides what I pick up in the grocery store, which usually includes in-season produce that, sometimes, is unrecognizable to me. Which is why I was staring at three pounds of rutabagas in my kitchen without the slightest clue what to do with them. I had never even eaten a rutabaga before, let alone cooked one. Are you supposed to peel it? Which side is the top? Clearly, I needed help. So I began researching recipes online, trying to find something to do with this week’s sale item.
I started off by simply roasting them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The roasted rutabagas were like a funky french fry with a similar texture, but an earthy and crisp cabbage-like taste. I decided that I liked rutabagas, and I wanted to find more complex recipes that involved more than just roasting them. Many dishes only used them as a filler – boiling and pureeing them into a mixture with 17 other ingredients – but I didn’t want to hide my new vegetal discovery. So I set out to find unique and inspirational recipes that highlighted the rutabaga instead of camouflaging it.
The first recipe is my take on a sweet and savory rutabaga soup. The original recipe calls for pureeing all the vegetables together, but I love chunky soups (especially with the onslaught of February slush storms) so I kept most of the vegetables intact. Maple syrup is a nice, sweet addition to the savory broth. Surprisingly, many recipes I found used rutabaga with maple syrup. After tasting this soup, I can easily see why the combination is popular. The caramelized sweetness of the syrup compliments the earthy crispness of the rutabaga. But the real secret ingredient in this soup is ginger, taking it to the next level by making a rustic and comforting soup also refreshing and bright.
Rutabaga slaws were some of the only recipes that I found using raw (or almost raw) rutabaga. My take is a bit unorthodox – I skipped the quick blanch that many recipes recommended, and instead used completely raw rutabaga, softened from a quick soak in freshly squeezed orange and Meyer lemon juice. The softened rutabaga is topped with a simple vinaigrette with maple syrup and extra virgin olive oil. It makes for a nice side or a great topping on hearty sandwiches. Tossed with crisp Savoy cabbage, this slaw is a bold and unique take on this winter root vegetable.
Finally, the last recipe I explored was rutabaga pie. Although I was originally against cooking the life out of rutabaga and then pureeing it into oblivion, I just had to try this pie. After the autumnal pumpkin craze is over, my heart still occasionally pines for some good pumpkin pie, and this rutabaga version is a welcome replacement. Surprisingly, the pie filling holds up well, and without just a faint twist from the rutabaga, I doubt you could even taste a difference.
I’m glad I gave rutabaga a chance and hope that you will too. If their dazzling low price didn’t attract your attention, then maybe these recipes will. Rutabagas may not look like much, but these waxy nubs will surprise you in their versatility. And if not, at least now you won’t confuse them for a vintage automobile.
Gingered Rutabaga Soup with Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash & Carrots
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup rutabaga, peeled and chopped
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup sweet potato, peeled and chopped
½ tablespoon freshly grated ginger
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt to taste
Melt one tablespoon of butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and apple and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Once softened, puree onion and apple in a food processor or blender until completely smooth. Feel free to add small amounts of chicken stock if the mixture is not blending well.
Add remaining 3 tablespoons of butter to stock pot. Once melted, add rutabaga, squash, carrots, and sweet potato. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until vegetables are slightly softened. Add the ginger to the stock pot and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add the chicken stock and onion-apple puree. Turn up the heat to bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, add the bay leaf and reduce the heat to simmer for 20-25 minutes until all the vegetables have cooked through.
Once cooked, remove the bay leaf and add the maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Mix well to incorporate the maple syrup. Then serve.
Adapted from the Washington Post
Savoy Cabbage and Rutabaga Slaw
¼ pound rutabaga, peeled and finely julienned
Juice of ½ navel orange
Juice of ½ Meyer lemon
¾ cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2 cups Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons white vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast walnuts in the oven until fragrant and golden, about 9 minutes. Cool, then coarsely chop.
After peeling and chopping the rutabaga to a fine julienne, combine in a bowl with orange and lemon juice. Let sit for at least 15 minutes or until rutabaga is slightly softened.
Drain the rutabaga, but reserve the citrus juice. In a separate bowl, combine rutabaga and cabbage.
For the vinaigrette, combine the reserved citrus juices, maple syrup, and vinegar in a bowl. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking to emulsify the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Coat the cabbage and rutabaga with vinaigrette. Let sit for another 15 minutes, until cabbage also softens slightly. Top with chopped walnuts and serve.
For the crust:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
4-5 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
1¼ pounds rutabaga, peeled and cut into small cubes
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 400°F.
To make the crust:
In a medium bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening until coarse crumbs are reached. Add the ice water until the dough just holds together, being careful not to over-mix. Roll out onto floured surface and fit into a 9-inch pie pan.
To make the filling:
Boil rutabaga in a large pan until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well. In a blender or food processor, puree the rutabaga until smooth. If necessary, add some of the heavy cream to get a smooth consistency.
Transfer puree to a bowl, then add sugar, maple syrup, and spices. Mix well. Fold in the eggs. Stir in the heavy cream.
Pour filling into pie crust and bake for 45 minutes or until filling is set. Cool before serving.
Makes one 9-inch pie.
Recipe from Vegetarian Times
Photos by Rachel Wisniewski