Rutabaga, rutabaga, where for art thou…my rutabaga?

For the last couple of weeks I have had an oogly little monster of a vegetable staring at me from across the kitchen island. Purchasing the rutabaga was a whim. I saw a small pile of them displayed upfront and center at my local grocery with a handmade sign exclaiming, “Sale! $.59 lb.!” That got my attention and even though I know that this turnip is a late fall and winter crop, not late spring, I reasoned that for less than a dollar I could have some fun with this root vegetable, plus I actually like them. I’m not kidding.

The most off-putting part of dealing with the rutabaga (also called a swede) is its odor. It does not exude a pleasant smell when being cooked. But the aroma can be camouflaged easily enough by use of other smells – garlic, onion, lemon, and of course, spices like cinnamon, cloves etc. I chose the latter.

A few days ago my tuberous friend sprouted a couple of leafy green spikes so I surmised it was either cook it up somehow or stick it back in the ground to eat another day. This time I chose the former. Deciding how to prepare it was another quandary altogether. I thought about making croquettes or roasting it with other root vegetables, or maybe a soup. But in the end, I settled on a quick bread – using a nice combo of spices and some toasted walnuts in a moist batter.

My Mom cooked up rutabaga a good bit in our household and both of us appreciated it’s unusual flavor. Now my dad and brother did not, so happily we got the rutabaga all to ourselves. She just cooked it into a mash of sorts, with some butter and a dash of salt. It is one food that does not taste like it smells after it’s cooked – to me the taste, when simply prepared, is rich and earthy and clean.

And believe it or not, that one rutabaga I used in this recipe provided enough shredded pulp for both the loaf of bread and about 2 cups of cooked puree. I guess I should add ‘economical’ to the rutabaga résumé.

My friend the rutabaga…

The rutagaba is not as difficult to peel as say, a jicama.

Shred the rutabaga with a grater, mandolin or a food processor.

Mix together all the wet ingredients: eggs, oil, buttermilk, applesauce, and vanilla extract. You can use a whisk or a mixer.

Add the sugar and the dry ingredients into the batter – which you have sifted together already. It will be pretty thick.

Stir in the rutabaga.

Mix in the toasted walnuts.

Make a typical streusel-type topping with butter, sugar, and flour plus some cinnamon. I like demera sugar (and it’s molasses overtones), especially when it’s on sale!

Drop the streusel topping onto the rutabaga batter.

Remove the bread form the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then release onto a rack to finish cooling. When completely cool, store in an air tight container or covered with plastic wrap. Delicious for breakfast with a hot cup of coffee!

Rutabaga Walnut Spice Bread 

  • 2 cups shredded rutabaga
  • 2/3 cup toasted chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 cups flour (combination of 1 cup all purpose and 1 cup white whole wheat)
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp.+ ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ½ cup vegetable oil (canola or just vegetable)
  • 2 tbl. buttermilk
  • 2 tbl. butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + ¼ cup demera sugar (or brown sugar, packed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil or grease a loaf pan. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, 1 tsp. cinnamon, the cloves and coriander. Set aside. In a large bowl beat the eggs with the applesauce, buttermilk, vanilla extract and oil until eggs are well incorporated. Mix in the sugar, other dry ingredients and the rutagaba. Stir in the walnuts. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.

In a small bowl mix the butter, ¼ cup flour and ¼ sugar with a fork. Sprinkle in some ground cinnamon – perhaps ¼ teaspoon. Drop this in small pieces – about the size of a nickel – over the top of the uncooked bread. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of the loaf comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto a rack to finish cooling. Slice and serve.

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