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For years the toy top-shaped rutabaga and spiky kohlrabi have endured being snubbed for their more glamorous brethren. Although members of the same cabbage family, turnips, cauliflower and broccoli all made their way to our plates long before these two homely vegetables snuck onto produce stands.
Luckily, the culinary cold shoulder has come to an end. From salads and purees and to stews and casseroles, these versatile veggies finally get their due.
Resembling an oversized, scarred turnip, the pale yellow rutabaga hails from Central Europe. Although its exact birthplace is unknown, the cool weather-loving root vegetable got its start as a popular Swedish crop. Hence the nicknames "Swede" or "Swedish turnip."
At its peak in wintertime the rutabaga possesses a sweet, peppery flavor reminiscent of a mild turnip. With its honeyed yet tangy taste and firm texture, it partners well with a wealth of foods including apples, cheese, pears, pork, potatoes, tomatoes, tuna and, of course, turnips. Unceasingly flexible, it hits it off with such diverse herbs and spices as basil, cardamom, cayenne, nutmeg, rosemary and star anise.
When choosing a rutabaga, look for smooth, firm flesh that feels heavy for its size. The top part should be a bright purple, the lower portion yellow. Avoid any that appear washed out or feel woody or dry.
Since most producers wax their rutabagas to prevent them from drying out, cooks must first peel them before using. After completing that task, the culinary possibilities seem limitless.
In Scandinavia cooks stick to simpler concoctions. "We let the vegetable stand on its own and allow the flavor to speak for itself," says Stockholm journalist Christina Anderson. She prepares both rutabagas and kohlrabi with a splash of olive oil and dash of salt and pepper.
In Scotland cooks boil and mash them with potatoes and onions to create the traditional dish clapshot. When boiled and mashed separately, the potato and rutabaga combo becomes the Scottish specialty tatties and neeps.
Elsewhere rutabagas are grated into salads, diced and added to soups or stews or cubed and placed inside potpies or alongside roasts. They can also be cut into matchsticks for tempura or Swede fries. Basically, any recipe for turnips will work perfectly with rutabagas, too.
Similar to the rutabaga, kohlrabi maintains strong ties to the turnip. In fact, it is often referred to as the "cabbage turnip," allusions to its turnip-like tang and membership in the cabbage family.
Unlike rutabagas, the Northern European kohlrabi bears no physical resemblance to a turnip. With its tennis ball-sized, globe-shaped base, slender, randomly spaced stalks and cabbage-like leaves it remains one of the strangest looking vegetables in existence. It also is one of the most versatile.
Kohlrabi's flavor has much to do with its adaptability. The bulb resembles a juicy mix of turnips, radishes, and cauliflower while the edible leaves bring to mind cabbage and kale.
This assortment of tastes translates into a long list of good partnerships. Kohlrabi makes a great mate for butter, Parmesan and Swiss cheeses, dill, garlic, mustard seeds, potatoes and soy sauce. It additionally pairs well with cabbage, carrots, curry, duck, lamb, leeks and pork.
When selecting kohlrabi, find one that has a firm bulb slightly larger than a golf ball with pale green or purple skin and deep green leaves. Skip those that show soft spots or yellowing leaves.
Back at home, cooks should separate the leaves from the bulb. If using immediately, peel the bulb and wash the greens. Otherwise, slip the two into separate plastic bags and refrigerate; refrigerated, a bulb will keep for 10 days while leaves will only last for four.
As with rutabagas, kohlrabi provides a host of cooking options. After slicing the bulb into rounds, quarters or strips, cooks can drizzle olive oil over top then grill, steam or roast it. They can boil and mash it like potatoes, glaze it like carrots, toss it into a Chinese stir fry or Indian curry, cream it, or bake it as a gratin.
Kohlrabi doesn't always require cooking. The bulb can be served raw in a salad, coleslaw or as crudites. As for the leaves, they spice up the tried and true mixed greens salad.
Considering the countless recipes that rutabagas and kohlrabi offer, it's no surprise that these former outcasts finally get their day in the kitchen.
2 pounds rutabaga, peeled and cut into cubes
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 -2 tablespoons skim milk
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
Fill a stockpot with cold water and add 1 teaspoon salt. Place the rutabagas and garlic in the pot and bring to a boil. Cook until very tender, between 30 to 45 minutes. Drain well and then place in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Return the pureed rutabaga to the pot and simmer over medium-low, stirring continually until the remaining liquid evaporates. Add the butter, skim milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, ground white pepper and thyme, stirring until well combined. Serve warm.
Honey-Glazed Root Vegetables
1 rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 celery root (celeriac), peeled and cubed
1 parsnip, peeled and cubed
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons honey
2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Place the rutabaga, celery root and parsnip in a pan of cold, lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain well in a colander and set aside.
Melt the butter in saute or frying pan. Tumble in the rutabaga, celery root and parsnip cubes and drizzle the honey over them. Saute the vegetables for about five minutes, until they have turned golden in color. Add the carrot and cook until the vegetables are tender but not overly soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve.
2 pounds kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cut into 2-inch sticks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Dijon mustard, optional garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Toss the kohlrabi sticks with olive oil and then spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle on the garlic powder and salt and bake in the preheated oven until the kohlrabi has become tender and slightly crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve warm with Dijon mustard as a garnish.
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Rutabaga and Kohlrabi Recipes - Kathy Hunt Recipes
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