The ocean breeze whistling through the naked shivering trees with the shrill note of winter, winding and twisting around me, searched out all the chinks in my well worn Carrhart armor. It whispered quietly in my ear with a deafening roar “YOU’VE GROWN SOFT OVER THE SUMMER”. It is of course correct, but that like the weather will change. The sudden bitter cold makes the simple joy of bustling about the kitchen, next to an intoxicatingly warm stove, all the more delirious. Work boots swapped for the soft caress of slippers, tool apron packed away in favor of its culinary cousin, dish towel slung over my shoulder, I attempt to dirty every dish in the kitchen.
Tonight’s dinner was a wonderful bouquet of home grown rootieness; rutabaga and carrots, beets, and beet greens. These were presented to me in their purest form, barely plucked from the earth’s nurturing embrace and plopped down all greens and roots and dirt spilling and cascading over my cutting board. This was what we had on hand, and me being too lazy to run out to the store, was what we ate. Perhaps next time I’ll add in a little sauteed chicken with a garlic and wild mushroom pan sauce…
Now what pray tell is a rutabaga, you may well ask. I did – I mean I know what it is when it’s sitting in front of me – but what is it really? Truth be told, it is a turnip. A yellow turnip in fact, or Swedish turnip or “Neep” to the Scottish – nothing all that exotic but it’s definitely tasty. And now that we know what it is let’s cook it.
First up is the carrot and turnip smash. Peel and chop the turnip (or rutabaga, if you are so lucky) and boil until just starting to soften, then add the chopped carrots. There is something in the taste a home grown carrot that cannot be quantified beyond the nostalgic kick in the rear of running pants-less through my mother’s garden with a carrot, greens still attached, clutched in my paw. It was the 70’s, we were hippies, don’t judge… But I digress.
Once all are nice and soft, drain and smash with a potato masher, add in butter, cream, and salt and pepper to taste. It makes a wonderfully tasty and colorful side. The beets are just as easy. Trim the greens and roots, scrub and rub down with oil, wrap them up individually in foil and pop in the oven at 350° until soft – about an hour, or two martinis, but who’s counting? When cooked and cooled enough to handle, the skins should slough off easily. Dice them into random sized chunks and mix with butter and fresh chopped dill, mm-mm.
The beet greens, which are not green at all: Take the nice crisp little ones that Jack Frost has not nipped and cut the stems into one inch chunks and saute in a little oil, then toss in the leaves that have been cut into 1/4 inch ribbons (or chiffonade for you cookie types). Stir in fresh minced garlic and dried oregano and basil and cook until just wilted. Serve topped with crumbled blue cheese – I found a tasty cheese from nearby Marion, Mass made with raw milk. Wine paring: Something red I should think, or another martini. Hey it’s the weekend, I don’t have to drive, stop looking at me like that. Besides I still have to make an apple pie for tomorrow, but that is a story for another day. Z-