Root words and recipes.

Roots have been top of mind lately. Quite literally, since I was overdue for a salon appointment. Guess that kills the does she or doesn’t she mystery.

But, roots. Putting them down. Rediscovering them. Covering them up. Rooting for your team (Go Pats!) Rooting around for blog ideas.

I whined about a topic in a blog group the other day. I asked for someone to give me an idea. Pleeeease. My design friend, Darla of Darla Powell Interiors responded first. She said, “Rutabagas. Go!”

You know, a smarter person might’ve chuckled and said, “No, really.”

But…hello. Root vegetable?!

Kismet, meet my friend Wikipedia.

Turns out, a rutabaga is not just a big ass turnip. It’s actually the love child of some ancient turnips and cabbages. Not exactly a plus in the PR column, but further reading reveals that they’re really good for you, in a low carb-antioxidant-nutrient-dense-cruciferous vegetable sort of way. Well, so what? How do they taste?

I bought a rutabaga.

I googled. I was not prepared for the plethora of five star recipes found on multiple food and cooking sites. I assumed directions for a simple mash, but found recipes for everything from rutabaga cheddar soup to rutabaga spice cake, many vegan and gluten free. Rutabagas can be boiled, sautéed, roasted, fried…did somebody say ‘au gratin’?! I like this article from Rodale Press that includes prep tips and several purportedly healthy recipes. Despite the copious amounts of butter and cheese, not to mention rutabaga, involved I’m going to try one.

I’m less than enthusiastic about heading out for additional ingredients, so I narrow down the recipe field based on what’s readily available in my kitchen. It should come as no surprise that my enthusiasm for executing a rutabaga recipe is inversely proportional to the amount of work it will require. From the recipes in this particular article, factoring in the time of day, ingredients on hand, expertise and labor required, as well as the death row mentality of going to my first Weight Watchers meeting in 35 years tomorrow morning, I opt for the Rutabaga Spice Cake.

rutabaga on wood cutting board.JPG

She’s a looker, isn’t she?

Two-point-two-four pounds of antioxidant powerhouse, about to go under the knife. As per the instructions I’ve read, I lop off the top and bottom, and yes, this little Brassica napobrassica is a waxed and slippery thing, but a standard vegetable peeler made for a quick, easy peel. I quickly learned that 2.24 pounds is about two pounds more than you need for the cup of freshly grated rutabaga the recipe requires. So I use a heaping packed cup for the cake and dice up a portion of the remaining rutabaga to boil for a quick snack of smashed ‘baga.

rutabaga peeling and preparation.jpg

While peeling and grating, I’m acutely aware of the rutabaga’s familial relationship with cabbage and broccoli. It has a distinct smell. It doesn’t seem overpowering at the start, but definitely there. In an unusual cake-baking twist, I have zero desire to test the batter while mixing. Zee. Roh. However, as I’m transferring batter from bowl to pan, I get some on my finger and reflexively lick it off and…hey. Sam I Am, maybe I do like green eggs and rutabaga. Interesting. I pop Ruta-cake in the oven and as she bakes, I no longer regret the battle scars from grating two teaspoons of nutmeg – the ‘spice’ in the Rutabaga Spice Cake - because it’s beginning to smell borderline heavenly. It’s close to bedtime when the cake is finished baking, so I just let it cool before covering loosely. I’ll leave frosting for morning.  

freshly ground nutmeg cake batter and baked cake.JPG

In the morning, Jack asks about the cake and, much to his mother’s chagrin (grandparenthood has its perqs), I tell him he can have a piece for breakfast - after it’s frosted and photographed. In all honesty, I have little hope for this cake. My kitchen smells like left over broccoli. Not good. I don’t know if I can bring myself to waste the additional ingredients to bring this cake to completion. I compromise on the frosting investment by cutting the recipe in half. Brown Butter Frosting is a new concept for me - you cook the butter until it turns brown and smells nutty. This appears to add insult to injury and is wrong on too many levels to count, but I follow the steps. In an act of unparalleled cowardice, I offer Jack the frosting spatula. He demurs at first, but I repeat the word ‘frosting’ and he has a change of heart. He tastes…says he doesn’t care for it…then comes back for more. Okay. Maybe there’s something to this.

Jack gets his breakfast cake and eats the whole piece. Not just the frosting. Hey buddy, should we put a piece in your lunch box? Look at me, using my four year old grandson as a garbage disposal for the cake I can’t bring myself to taste. If it’s going to end up in the trash, why not get a few more phytochemicals in him first? My husband has a sliver. He says it’s good…different, but good. He has another sliver.

slice of cake with glazed walnuts that Jack ate.jpg

I will have to try it, but ever since the first mention of rutabaga, I’ve been hearing an earworm. There’s a Blake Shelton song with a line in the chorus that goes, ‘Chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit’. It was an easy morph to rutabaga, rutabaga, rutabaga…spit. And it might actually happen after I taste some of this here ‘baga cake.

The clock is ticking…I take a small piece. It does not taste like broccoli. And the frosting is really kind of yummy. I take another small piece. I think about what I could do next time. Wait. What?  I notice the left-over-broccoli smell has dissipated as I help myself to another slice. It’s really pretty good. It’ll be gone by tomorrow.

I’ve waited thirty five years to go to a WW meeting and life is uncertain. I think I’ll eat dessert first.

cake with frosting and chopped nuts.jpg