Consider, if you will, the rutabaga.

I never really have, aside from the fact that it is one of my favorite things to say.When I was a tot, my mother gave me Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories, a deeply weird collection of fables with names like “How They Bring Back the Village of Cream Puffs When the Wind Blows It Away,” and since then “rutabaga” has been in my top 10.It’s an excellent word.You can say it like a thug from Brooklyn, or with a little tonsil trill like a Swedish soprano might, or use it as a growling expletive, or a very effective courtside cheer for almost any sport.I have done all of these and more, but the rutabaga is not something I have ever really gotten involved with as a food.In fact, I have created a PR problem for it in my house, because whenever anyone asks suspiciously what I will be foisting on them for dinner (I made guacamole out of peas once--just once!--and my reputation has never really rebounded from it), I am likely to say something along the lines of “rutabaga fricassee” or “tangy rutabaga-clam pancakes.”

But now I have cooked a rutabaga, and it was good.Aside from its splendid visuals--purple and yellow!Come on, people!--the rutabaga, or swede, brings a lot to the table, like whopping amounts of vitamin C, iron, calcium and magnesium, and all the health-giving benefits of the Brassica family.The recipe I used came from a totally wonderful cookbook called Veganomicon, by a totally wonderful pair of cooks, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero of the Post-Punk Kitchen, who have never steered me wrong in all the four books I have known them.They told me to put cilantro in my rutabaga, and I was skeptical.As usual, they were right.But they also said you could make it without cilantro and it would be delicious, and they were right about that, too.They included a dab of agave to sweeten this (2 tsp), which I can see the merits of, but I left it out.Your call.

As a parting gift, here is an action shot from the 14th annual Ithaca Rutabaga Curling Competition.


photo by Jerry Feist

Mashed rutabaga with coconut & lime

adapted from Veganomicon

2 ½ lbs rutabaga, peeled and chunked

¼ c coconut milk (use regular, not light, for maximum deliciousness)

2T lime juice

handful of chopped cilantro (or not)

salt to taste (didn't need much)

Put the rutabaga in a saucepan and cover with water; boil until fork-tender.Drain, and either transfer to a food processor with the remaining ingredients, or attack them right in the pot with a stick blender and see it all turn a lovely bright green.If you are not including the cilantro, you could use a potato masher instead.