February 10, 2014 Leave your thoughts
So, as you may or may not know, I work at a farmer’s market. A winter farmer’s market.
And you know what that means? Roots. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of roots.
When the market began back in November, there was kale. Fresh baby spinach. Brussel sprouts. Salad greens. But as November turned to December and fall turned to winter, the amount of green slowly diminished. People began arriving early so they could buy up anything that wasn’t brown or white before everybody else. I soon found myself with a serious problem. Friends, family, readers: I developed VEGETABLE HOARDING.
A few weeks ago, the vendor that sold her produce next to me had kale. KALE. Just a few precious bags of leafy, crunchy goodness. It was a little hard-hit from the snow and extremely cold weather, but it was green, and I wanted it. BAD. I proceeded to immediately reserve four bags for myself, then laughed with relish at my success. (It was incredibly delicious, by the way.)
Right now, in the heart of February, only the toughest of the veggies have lingered on at the farmer’s market. Sweet potatoes. Gnarly celeriacs. Fat, twisted carrots. Baby beets that definitely need a cuddle instantaneously upon purchase. While they may not be beauty pageant winners, I love them all the same, and I’ll always work with what I’ve got.
Let’s start with rutabaga.
Everyone, this is a rutabaga.
He (or she?) is very hearty in appearance, with a bulbous middle and slightly stringy top. Upon sniffing this magnificent creature, you’ll detect almost cabbage-like notes. You know why? It’s because both plants belong to the Brassica family, which also includes cauliflower, collard greens, and broccoli. This means your kitchen will be a little stinky, too, but no need to fear–rutabaga tastes awesome. Especially when paired with some spices for flavor and color.
Usually, when I’m working with a new vegetable, I cube it and roast it in the oven with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, then taste and determine what it needs for next time to enhance its flavor. I didn’t do that with rutabaga–I went straight to matchstick mode to make oven-baked fries.
Crunchy on the outside and just a bit creamy on the inside, these fries are a wonderful change of pace from your typical vegetable side dish. I like them plain, but I bet they’d also be super tasty with Citrus-Infused Mayo on the side.
First things first: preheat the oven to 450 degrees and take out two medium rimmed baking sheets.
If you’d like, peel the skin off of your rutabaga–it’s not absolutely necessary–and slice it into thick matchsticks. Want to make cutting a little easier? Cut off the rutabaga’s bottom so it can stand up on its own on your cutting board!
Once properly cut, put the rutabaga matchsticks in a large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, 1-2 teaspoons of paprika (depending on how spicy you want them), 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. When all are evenly coated, divide the matchsticks evenly among the two baking sheets.
Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Stir every 10 to 15 minutes to ensure that both sides get properly crisped. Serve immediately with your favorite meat, poultry, or white fish. (May I recommend the Crispy Sweetbreads?)
Onto our next installment of winter vegetable madness: HASSELBACK POTATOES.
OK, so unless you’ve been living under a foodie boulder for the past, er, year, you’ve probably seen countless of pictures of hasselback potatoes floating around the internet. Unfortunately, all of these recipes are LOADED with butter and cheese…and while I have a problem with neither in moderation, I don’t think that a vegetable side dish should contain an entire stick of butter and up to a cup of cheese. That basically defeats the purpose of a vegetable, don’t you think?
Then, one day, I was hanging out in the kitchen watching Barefoot Contessa, because I was bored and my T.V. channels are pretty much exclusively the Food Network, the Weather Channel, and Kids 13 when Arthur is on. (I am not a tasteful T.V. watcher, mind you.) I was about to turn it off when Ina started talking about potatoes. Immediately, a picture of mini hasselback potatoes popped up on the screen, and I darted downstairs to look up the recipe.
I was so excited. Hasselback potatoes. Without any butter and cheese. And mini-sized. Yes.
My recipe is slightly adapted from Ina’s; I also used a combination of baby golden and purple potatoes for color and variety. These are so pretty and so tasty…I could eat the entire batch, if you wanted me to. Really.
Just like the rutabaga fries, you’ll need to preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Get out the biggest rimmed baking sheet you have–you’ll need lots of space for these potatoes!
Unless you’re a knife pro, you’re going to need some help cutting up the potatoes. (FYI, I used about 1 lb.) Here’s a great trick: use a spoon that’s about the same size as the potato you’re using! Every 1/4-inch or so, cut down until you hit the spoon. Repeat until you reach the end of the potato, and here’s what it should look like…
It holds together, but you still have the cuts you want for crispy hasselback potatoes!
Repeat with the rest of the potatoes and transfer them all to a big bowl. Toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary, and a good crack of black pepper.
Pour the coated potatoes on the baking sheet, and bake until tender on the center and crispy all over, about 40 to 45 minutes. Give the pan a shake every 15 minutes to make sure the potatoes don’t stick!
My dad thought they looked like armadillos. What do you think?
And there you have it! Two tasty vegetable sides that are actually in season.
What’s your favorite winter vegetable? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!