By Lori Rodgers –
Fall is my favorite season. Anticipating the first cool morning, brewing the first pot of pumpkin spice coffee, biting into a crisp, juicy apple. What’s not to love?
In seasons past I’ve focused my culinary efforts on desserts (think pumpkin everything!) and carb-focused side dishes like corn pudding and cornbread dressing, southern style of course. This year I’m exploring the bounty of autumn vegetables and have pledged to experiment with at least three varieties of produce I have not tried before.
First up, Rutabagas! When I was a little girl, my great Aunt Pearl would cook these for my mom. I remember disliking the smell so much I stayed out on the porch all day. Autumn marks the time of year of “full maturity”, so I decided it was time to rise above my childhood taste buds and experiment with this somewhat odd-looking vegetable. A member of the Brassica family, rutabagas are thought to be a hybrid of cabbage and turnips. I was pleased to find a good selection of this root vegetable at Fresh Market. They have a purple tinged yellow skin with a waxy looking exterior. Choose firm rutabagas that feel heavy for their size. If the greens are still attached, remove and discard before storing. You can keep them for up to two weeks refrigerated in a plastic bag.
An enthusiastic fan of soups, I decided to incorporate rutabagas into a favorite meal. Think butter, onions, beef stock, and cream jazzed up with a healthy dose of sweet paprika. The aromas were tantalizing as the ingredients simmered on the stove and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed the results!
Next, I tackled Beets. This vegetable seems to be…pardon the pun…popping up everywhere lately.
Selecting a good beet is similar choosing a good rutabaga. Look for firm, smooth beetroots that are heavy for their size. If the greens are attached, avoid those that have wilted. Smaller beets tend to be more flavorful. To store, remove the greens and refrigerate for 7-10 days.
Beets are not just red and pickled these days. I was happy to find some lovey organic golden beets. I wanted their natural earthy flavor to dominate so I decided to glaze them on the stovetop. This is a simple and fast alternative to roasting, and needs little attention as they gently simmer. The beets brown nicely in the last few minutes and tasted as good as they look. And you only have one pan to wash!
The third and final frontier was Celery Root, or Celeriac. A somewhat intimidating looking specimen, it was surprisingly easy to prep and cook. The aroma from the uncooked veggie is enticing and the distinctive flavor when cooked blends nicely with its milder cousins. I chose potatoes for a simple yet elegant puree.
Helpful tips for selecting and storing celery root: choose firm, heavy specimens without too many deep crevices. If you stumble across celery root with the green stalks attached, buy it! It will be fresher and easier to peel. Note: Celery stalks and celery root are NOT interchangeable in recipes. Remove the stalks and store them separately. Do not wash or peel the bulbs. Brush off any loose dirt, wrap lightly in plastic and refrigerate for 2-3 weeks.
Golden Harvest Soup
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 cups beef or vegetable stock
1 cup chardonnay
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 pounds of rutabagas, peeled and cubed
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
6 to 8 cups of water
3 cups of whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional garnishes: sour cream and crumbled bacon
Melt the butter in a large stock pot. Add the onion and caraway seeds and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the rutabagas, carrots, and potatoes and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, wine, paprika, and enough water to cover the vegetables by 1-2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, 45-60 minutes.
Remove soup from heat and stir in milk and cream, season with salt and pepper to taste. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor. Warm thoroughly over low heat. Ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with sour cream and bacon if desired.
Glazed Golden Beets
1 pound golden beets, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons honey
Pinch of pink Himalayan salt
1 cup water
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat to simmering over medium heat. Cover and cook about 15 minutes until beets are tender yet still firm. Add water gradually if needed. Remove lid and cook another 5-7 minutes until liquid is evaporated. Then cook stirring frequently until beets are nicely browned. Season with salt if desired and enjoy immediately!
Celery Root Potato Puree
1 ½ pounds celery root, peeled and diced
7 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Boil the celery root and potatoes in a large stock pot until tender, about 12 minutes. While veggies are cooking, melt the butter in a separate large stock pot over low heat and stir in the heavy cream. Remove from heat. Drain the potatoes and celery root when tender and add to butter and cream mixture. Combine gently and transfer to a mixer. Beat until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper and serve while hot.
Variation: Stir in 1 cup shredded asiago or Gruyere cheese just before serving.