Overlooked Winter Veggies: Rediscover the rutabaga

Image via muffintinmania.comOften mistaken for turnips and outshined by the season’s much sexier squash and cooking greens, the stalwart, purple-topped rutabaga – which is harvested from September through March – is easy to grow, easy to store and even easier to take for granted. No doubt you’ve seen it bobbing in Grandma’s beef stew and chopped with other root veggies in traditional pot roasts, but give it a chance and you’ll learn that this cabbage-turnip hybrid has much more to offer.

Known as Swedish turnips (or swedes) in their native Europe, rutabagas are round with smooth cream-colored skin on the bottom and purple on the top; and their butter-yellow flesh is sweeter and denser than their turnip cousins. Their low moisture content makes them ideal candidates for mashing and roasting, and is probably the reason they are most commonly used in soups, stews and braises. However, the crunchy raw flesh is also delicious in coleslaw and salads (like this Rutabaga Apple Salad, for instance).

So next time you’re at the market, pick up a few of these nutrient-rich rootsm – they’re packed with vitamin C, among other things – for a healthy winter couscous salad (recipe follows), or shake up your cooking repertoire with Baked Rutabaga Chips, Rutabaga-Turnip Gratin with Maple Syrup, Farmhouse Chowder, Smoky Whipped Rutabaga or an Asian Pot Roast.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Herbed Couscous

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 medium rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large turnip, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2½ cups vegetable stock, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1½ cups whole wheat couscous
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Raisins and toasted pine nuts for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, combine the rutabagas, carrots, sweet potato, parsnips, turnip and garlic. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and toss to coat.

Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet and sprinkle the vinegar over top. Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes, stir them well, and then add ½ cup of the vegetable stock to the baking sheet and roast for another 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes until soft. Add the couscous and sauté for 2 minutes or until it begins to toast, then add the remaining 2 cups of vegetable stock and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Let the pot stand, covered, for 5 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Toss in the mint, parsley, and lemon zest and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the roasted vegetables on heaps of herbed couscous.

PEGGY PAUL is a freelance editor, writer, and recipe developer (and part-time produce peddler) living in Philadelphia. On her blog, AnUnstillLife.com she shares seasonal recipes, cooking tips and inspirations.