contributed by Katy Morris
In the bitter cold of February here in the Northeast, we are shining the spotlight on a locally grown, versatile root vegetable, the rutabaga.
Rutabagas, otherwise known as swedes, are members of the Brassica family. Although not brightly colored or calling out for attention like some of your other winter favorites, don’t overlook this pleasantly earthy, mildly sweet veg. They are actually super nutritious, tasty, affordable, and easy to incorporate into a variety of dishes. Rutabagas are a cross between cabbages and turnips. They are a tad sweeter, larger, rounder, and denser than their turnip relative. Their bulbous bottom is a cream color and the shoulders are a purplish hue.
Where and when should I get them?
As always, your local farmer’s markets are always your best bet to get recently dug rutabagas. Local Harvest is a really great resource to find your closest markets – check it out here. If you must get them from your supermarket, just be aware that they will likely wax the vegetable in an effort to hold in the moisture. Although rutabagas are available all year, the quality of these thrifty root vegetables peaks around now through March.
What should I look for?
Rutabagas have a cream colored, bulbous bottom with purple hued shoulders. You want to make sure that the ones you pick are free of blemishes, soft spots and cracks and they should be very firm and relatively heavy. Choose rutabagas that are about 4-6 inches high, which is indicative of their maturity.
They are on my counter. How do I handle them?
Since rutabagas are pretty big and have a thick skin, people often assume that prepping them is a daunting task; however it’s not as hard as it looks. Get your large chef knife, paring knife (or vegetable peeler) and cutting board ready to go. After rinsing and drying the rutabaga, cut off the top and the bottom so that it doesn’t roll around on the surface. Then, using your peeler, scrape off the outer layer and be sure to get all the wax off (if you’ve purchased them someplace other than a farmers market). You want to see the yellowish flesh of the bulb once peeled properly, not green or white. Once peeled, chop or slice, depending on how you plan on cooking them.
Rutabagas store extremely well. If you don’t want to prep and cook them right away, put the unwashed veggies in the drawer of your fridge, where they will be just fine for up to a month.
Prepped…and ready. Now what?
These guys are very versatile. You can eat them raw (as a snack, grated or julienned in your salad or cole slaw) or cooked (roasted, mashed, stewed, boiled, steamed – you name it!). Some of the most popular ways to use them are as a substitute for mashed potatoes, roasted alongside potatoes, carrots, and onions, or creamed into a hot soup. Although the bulb is the most popular part to use, the greens are also edible. Note that they are pretty bitter, and can be used raw in salads or added to soups and stews.
Thank you to Nancy Roper of Truck in Bedford, NY for this fantastic Winter Vegetable Taco recipe featuring locally grow rutabaga.
This vegetarian recipe was shared by Nancy Roper, TRUCK, Bedford, NY
To make this recipe vegan and parve (non-dairy) simply leave out the cheese on the topping, or use your fave vegan cheese.
- 1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1 inch size cubes
- 2 carrots, scrubbed not peeled, cut into similar size pieces as rutabaga
- 2 cups red cabbage,1 inch size pieces
- 2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed, larger sprouts cut in half
- 1-2 leeks, split down the middle cut into inch size pieces
- 8 oz. fresh goat cheese
- 3/4 cup nice quality oil, safflower, sunflower, or olive oil, for roasting and sautéing
- salt, we prefer Maldon, to taste
- Prepare vegetables and keep separate. In a bowl, toss the rutabagas in a little of the oil, salt to taste, spread on cookie sheet and place in 350 oven. Repeat same procedure with carrots. Roast carrots and rutabagas until cubes are soft in center and have brown edges.
- Cook leeks over medium heat, salt to taste. Cook until leeks are tender and translucent about 10 minutes. Repeat same process for red cabbage, may need to add a little water, 1/2 cup, cook until cabbage is tender.
- Blanche brussels sprouts in boiling water 1-2 minutes, shock in ice water, drain completely. When sprouts are completely drained add to sauté pan (medium high). Be sure not to overcook, but do lightly caramelize the sprouts.
- Mix all the vegetables in a bowl. When ready to serve tacos, the veg mixture must be hot, so heat in sauté pan or oven, briefly.
- *For the taco shells, for a soft taco you may use a small flour tortilla, however, we use fresh corn tortillas.
- Place 1/2 cup of hot vegetable mixture and top with tablespoon or so of fresh goat cheese and pico de gallo.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
* Using tongs dip the tortilla in boiling water for a second, remove and heat tortilla on both sides on a cast iron pan, nonstick pan or electric pancake griddle. This is a bit tricky. If you remove the tortilla too soon it tears and sticks to the pan. If tortilla stays too long on the griddle it will not bend into a taco shape…be sure to have extra tortillas and practice! Tortillas need to be served right away. You may hold them in a moist tea towel for about 10 minutes.