Rutabagas and their friends

Rutabaga fries

A long time ago (around Week 14, I believe) some rutabagas appeared at my home. I didn’t really know what to do with them, so I turned to that great vegetable bible, Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Debbie had a recipe in the rutabaga section for rutabaga fries. I like snacks, more than the other wholesome sounding things on offer in rutabaga futures, so I made the fries. It involved cutting them up and baking them on a cookie sheet with olive oil, and then tossing them with with salt and pepper and minced fresh rosemary. Much like sweet potato fries, they didn’t get crispy or anything, but they are interesting. Weirdly, they kind of remind me of roasted garlic, in color and texture and even flavor. Odd. But nice.

In other news, I think I hate turnips. I’ve had many, many bunches now from my box. I’ve tried them in a souffle. I’ve tried them roasted. I’ve tried them raw. I made an Indian curry with a recipe from the Eatwell newsletter. And finally I made them into a turnip-sweet potato bisque everyone in my Eatwell Yahoo group has been raving about. (Yes, my CSA box has its own Yahoo group – isn’t that the greatest?)

Now I have never met a vegetable I didn’t like (with the sole exception of cooked bell peppers – blech), and I am especially a great friend and lover to all root vegetables. So I kept doggedly plugging along with the turnips, trying recipe after recipe, figuring I must not have found the right showcase for these lovely white roots. And while the turnip souffle was lovely, tinged with pink, and the curry was gorgeous, the fiery colors of a sunset, and the bisque was universally liked by my dinner guests, each dish has ended up tasting somewhat… wrong.

I am the type of person who scoffs at people who don’t like a certain vegetable. Hate brussel sprouts? I am convinced you’ve always had them either over- or undercooked. Refuse to eat beets? Perhaps if you tried them not from a can… So I know, intellectually, that turnips are one of those frequently reviled foods, foods that people complain about having been forced to eat as a child. But I always considered myself to be immune, above that, even. But I think that now, after many weeks, I must at last concede. The turnip, and possibly even its friend and companion the rutabaga, is just not for me.

The root of things

I love roasted root vegetables. I have ever since I lived with my sister/best-friend in Providence and she would fortify us with enormous batches of that earthy, savory, caramelized winter delight. The kitchen chemistry behind roasting eludes me, however, and thus every batch I make is an experiment in faith.

Tonight I cut up most of the remainder of the past weeks’ boxes: roasting turnips, Nantes carrots, Rome Beauty apples, and some beets and garlic cloves that were not of box origin. I tossed them all with olive oil, salt, pepper, and an incredibly luxurious mountain of fresh rosemary and thyme from my last box. I lined a dish with parchment (this new-to-me miracle discovery for roasted roots turns cleaning up from a carpal-tunnel-inducing chore to just barely more than a rinse) and heated the oven to 425.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Apples and Thyme and Rosemary

I put the little fellows into the oven and checked in on them about 45 minutes later. And yes, of course, being small pieces of vegetable matter who had just spent a very long time in a very hot oven, they were cooked. Tender on my fork, and all that. But they weren’t delicious.

But they’re cooked! Take them out!, my suspicious brain cried, perhaps still mourning over the blackened husks of the Week 6 tomatillos I forgetfully abandoned in the oven for a good 3 hours. Have faith! These are merely steamed!, rejoined my stomach, remembering the almost crispy, sugary texture and flavor of those Providence roots.

So back in they went, for another 45 minutes at least – I lose track after a while and the time elapsed is at last labeled simply “a very long time in which I nervously check the oven every ten minutes lest everything burn and be horribly ruined.” In the end I simply took them out – I had lost all perspective. Were they roasted? Were they ruined?

Finally I put a forkful in my mouth. That bite had a piece of apple in it, and the apple was like sin. Like a caramel apple that’s been grilled and seared and melted and oiled and herbed until it has transcended apple, fallen from apple, into some place extraordinary. And from there, from extraordinary, into my waiting mouth.