Dec
03
2008
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Just Right with Rutabaga

Rutabaga & Kale - Staple Nordic Winter Foods

Rutabaga & Kale - Staple Nordic Winter Foods

I recently asked my friend, Paavo from Finland who caters to some of the more illustrious tables of Manhattan, what some of his favorite memories of Christmas food from Scandinavia were. I expected something elaborate and well, frankly, upmarket, but certainly not Rutabaga Casserole. I shouldn’t have been so suprised, Paavo is, after all, a master of suprise.

So what is rutabaga? It is what I have previously called turnip or yellow turnip in this blog; a marvelous mixture between a turnip and a cabbage (thus deserving of its Scandinavian name, kålrot, which literally means cabbage root) that will henceforth be known as nothing other than rutabaga in this blog.

Rutabaga has had a hard time in northern Europe.   In hard times it has been a food of last resort, making it a food of no resort during good times. Its rehabilitation has been tough in Germany where it earned a reputation as famine food. In Scandinavia those associations are not quite as strong and there has been some creativity around rutabaga. After all, it comes from this part of the world – it is thought to have spread its way westward from Siberia and Finland during the 17th century – so we ought to know how to handle it!

Aside from its original taste, rutabaga is both nutritious and eco-smart. It is a good source of vitamin C, folate and fiber. The down side is that it is a high GI food, but on the other hand low in fat. As with everything else, consume in moderation. On the environment side, it grows in cold climates, reducing the need for pesticides.

Finns are the grand masters of rutabaga, particularly in the form of Rutabaga Casserole which is a classic during the holiday season. It’s got a bit of cream in it to give it that festive flavor. However, if you want a superb light rutabaga recipe that got 5 stars from my family (can you believe it?), you’ll want to try my low-fat rotmos or Mashed Root Vegetables. This dish is an exciting alternative to the much less interesting mashed potatoes and healthier too! Here are both the casserole and mashed root veg. recipes.

Rutabaga Casserole

1 medium rutabaga, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 medium potato
2/3 dl or 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2/3 dl or 1/4 cup cream
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3 tbsp butter

Cover rutabaga and potato in water with a dash of salt and cook until soft.  Drain off the water and mash. Mix the bread crumbs with cream and allow to soak for a few minutes. Add nutmeg, salt and egg. Fold this mixture into the mashed root vegetables. Pour into a casserole dish, dot with butter and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake in 350 F or 175 C for about one hour until lightly browned on top.

Mashed Root Vegetables or Rotmos

1/4 medium rutabaga, peeled and roughly chopped
4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt/Pepper for seasoning

Cook the root vegetables until soft. Drain and save the liquid. Mash by hand or in a blender so that the vegetables are smooth. Return to the cook pan and over low heat blend in a few tablespoons of the liquid until the rotmos has reached the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

For more recipes visit The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook!

Oct
22
2008
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The Rotten Cookbook for Good Health

Yummy Vegetables!

Tummy Trim Vegetables!

Oh dear. “What is she thinking now?”, you might wonder. Isn’t a title like “The Rotten Cookbook for Good Health” just naturalness gone too far? No, not really although I do agree that a book with that title might not make the bestseller lists.

This was just my crazy little way of calling your attention to the value of controlled fermentation in the kitchen for good health. Cultivating good bacteria in order to mature foods in ways that are good for our stomachs and that appeal to our palates is a very old art used in many parts of the world, including in the Nordic region. Lactic fermentation of root vegetables and cabbages is one good example. This technique was originally a means of preserving the vital nutrients that these vegetables could provide until the next warm season could deliver new nutrients. What is lactic fermentation? It means using the watery liquid (the whey) that is left when you drain out the creamy part of yogurt or other forms of ‘live’ dairy product. What is a ‘live’ dairy product? It is one that contains live bacteria good for maintaining your digestive flora (check the labels!).

When I thought of “The Rotten Cookbook for Good Health”, I thought of a whole host of foods that would fit in. All kinds of interesting combinations of tasty vegetables that could be fermented and bottled, wonderful sourdough breads, home-made yogurts and more. The idea just gets bigger all the time!

Now let’s get down to practicals. During the past days, I have made classic Nordic fermented root vegetables. A serving of this a day is guaranteed to keep your digestion in good form! Here is the basic recipe:

Tummy Trim Vegetables
(makes 3 liters or 3 quarts)

2 kg or 4.4 lbs root vegetables and cabbages of your choice (I used white cabbage, swede, carrots and turnip) roughly chopped
1 liter or 1 quart yogurt or buttermilk (filmjölk in Swedish) drained through a cheesecloth overnight
Salt
Water

Place the chopped vegetables into a large clean glass or ceramic container that can be sealed. Pour over the whey (the milky liquid) that has been separated from the cream. Mix the vegetables into this liquid and place a heavy weight on them (I use my limestone rock paper-weight) so that they are compressed and just covered with the liquid. Seal and leave to ferment in a warm place in the house for 12 hours. Open and add salt water if the vegetables are not covered in liquid. The recipe for salt water is 3 tsps to one liter or quart of water. Place the weight on the vegetables again and seal. Leave in the same place to ferment for 3 days this time. After this time you can bottle the vegetables and liquid as you like and refrigerate or keep in a cool place. In contrast to most foods, these just improve with time! Consume as a side dish with almost anything. For extra seasoning, add in paprikas, onions and your favorite herbs such as rosemary or dill on the first day of fermentation. This makes a mean “rotten” side salad!

Visit The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for a further selection of great recipes!

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