The rutabaga is new to me. It’s one of those vegetables I walk on past when I’m shopping at the market. Maybe it’s the funny looks. Maybe it’s the silly name. I don’t know. The closest I ever came is turnips, the rutabaga’s smaller, more attractive relative. My grandmother served mashed turnips as a holiday side dish, but I was a fussy eater and turnips were best snuck down to the dog under the table. What did I know? I’m happy I grew up and expanded my palate.
Rutabaga, also called swede, is a cold weather root vegetable, a cross between the cabbage and the turnip. Rutabagas are milder than the slightly bitter turnip, sweeter and less starchy than a potato, and similar to carrots, but not as sweet. In Sweden, rutabaga is mashed with potato and carrot to create a purée called “rotmos” (root mash). In Scotland, potato and rutabaga are boiled and mashed separately to produce “tatties and neeps,” served with haggis, a savory pudding main dish. In England, rutabaga is eaten mashed as a side dish.
Interestingly, however, the rutabaga is not universally embraced. It was considered a food of last resort in both Germany and France during famine and the food shortages around World War I and World War II. Wild rutabaga grew plentifully. A boiled stew of rutabaga and water was a staple during that time, and a result, many people have unhappy memories about it.
It’s a new day, though, and there are many delicious ways to prepare rutabagas:
Roasted, Cubed Rutabaga: Toss one large, peeled and cubed rutabaga with olive oil (enough to coat), salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Roast at 425 degrees until golden and soft, about 40 minutes.
Mashed Rutabaga: Peel and cut one large rutabaga into bite-sized chunks. Boil the rutabaga in salted water for 15-20 minutes until fork tender. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Use a potato masher, coarsely mashing the rutabaga in the cook pot and add the reserved cooking liquid as needed to create a creamy texture. Season with additional salt, pepper and—if you’re feeling brave—a pinch of cayenne to taste.
Baked Rutabaga “French Fries”: Peel one rutabaga and cut into spears. Toss the spears with vegetable oil, minced rosemary or parsley, garlic and salt to taste. Lay the rutabaga on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake until fries are cooked through and browned on the outside, about 30 minutes.
It’s been a long, cold winter, and I wanted soup. The fresh ginger in Rutabaga Carrot Ginger Soup warms things up and adds a little something extra. It’s one of those recipes where, although quantities are suggested, amounts can vary depending what you find in your pantry or at the market. This winning combination will please every family member with none leftover for the dog!
- 3-4 cups peeled, cubed rutabaga (one large or two small rutabagas)
- 5 cups peeled, sliced carrots
- 1 ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 ½ cups cubed potato
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5-7 cups vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- Fresh pepper to taste
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard
- Cut the vegetables and mince the garlic. The potato and rutabaga should be cut to a similar size, about ¼ to ½-inch square.
- Place the oil in a large cook pot over medium to medium-high heat until oil is heated through. Add the vegetables, in no particular order, the rutabaga, carrots, celery, onion, potato and garlic.
- Stir to coat the vegetables in the oil and allow to cook for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to give up their liquid. Stir a few times.
- Add the salt and the grated ginger. Cover everything with about 5 cups of the vegetable broth. Make sure the vegetables are just covered with the stock, and reserve the remainder.
- Bring to a simmer (about 10 minutes) and allow everything to cook for an additional 25 minutes, or until the vegetables, especially the rutabaga and potato, are fork tender.
- With an immersion blender, purée the pot contents. Add the pepper to taste, the coconut milk and the mustard. Stir and heat everything through. Incorporate more stock until soup reaches the desired consistency.
This recipe makes a large quantity, and it can be frozen. Simply cook the soup, omitting the coconut milk. Freeze it, and add the coconut milk during reheating. The soup will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Inspiration for the soup recipe comes from Kathryn Yeomans.