Saturday, December 18, 2010

A discovery

This year, as I've already mentioned, we joined a CSA. And the vegetables were great. We discovered that we love beets, we ate kale and chard as often as we could get it, and salad turnips were a revelation. During the heat of midsummer we had as many tomatoes, and as much basil, as we could handle, and there were always melons. It was wonderful.

In the fall it became clear that the drought over the summer had done a number on some of the crops. The earliest sign was that there were no zucchini--this was astonishing, as anyone who's ever had to sneak zucchini onto a neighbor's back porch knows. There were no fall beets, and the potato and carrot crops weren't what they might have been. Still there was kale, lovely kale, and there were some winter squash, and those delicious turnips.

And rutabaga. Even the name puts me off a bit. Looking at them, you wonder how anyone ever decided to eat one: they are purple and white, knobbly and hairy, and altogether unbeautiful. My first attempts at cooking them didn't go over too well, either: I peeled and chopped and roasted one along with our potatoes and sweet potatoes, and Nick carefully pushed each offending chunk to the side. I could hardly blame him. It had a bitterness that was somehow sharper, less welcoming, than the bitterness of my beloved fall greens.

So the rutabagas sat in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, passed over for turnips and squash, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

The CSA ended just before Thanksgiving, almost a month ago. We have finished the kale, the salad greens are long gone, and last week I used up the last two carrots. There are still a few salad turnips left. And the rutabagas. What to do with them?

Then Lisa, from our CSA, linked to a post about rutabagas. I was unconvinced about the first two recipes (though I will no doubt try them before the winter is over), but the third looked promising. I have a history, after all, of putting vegetables into baked goods. So I tried the cake.

Of course, I was well into the recipe before I noticed that the finely chopped apple that's called for is actually dried apple, and I didn't have any. I had, however, recently bought some chopped dates for baking, so I substituted those. And I was loath to waste good maple syrup on something we might not like, so I used some leftover apple cider syrup that I'd made to go with pumpkin waffles a while back. It was good, sort of like a ginger cake, but Nick was still skeptical.

So this morning I tried again. And I now present to you my reworked recipe for rutabaga-ginger muffins, just as I made them this morning. (Note: I'm not sure I expect you to go out and buy a rutabaga if you don't already like them, just to try this recipe. I bet you could also use grated winter squash, or maybe sweet potato, instead. But if you've got a rutabaga lying around, you might give this a try.)

Rutabaga Ginger Muffins & Bread

1-1/2 cups milk
2 tbl. ground flax seeds
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup molasses

3 cups flour (I used one of whole wheat and two of unbleached all purpose)
4 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt

2 cups grated rutabaga
1 cup chopped dates for baking

2 tbl. maple syrup or apple cider syrup (scroll down)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Whisk together the flax seeds and the milk and put aside to thicken for about ten minutes. Melt the butter if you haven't already. With a hand mixer, beat the milk and flax seeds for a bit, then add in the melted butter, molasses, and honey.

Stir in the dry ingredients, sifting them beforehand if you're concerned about lumps (I'm not). Stir the grated rutabaga and the dates into the batter. It will be thick.

I used this amount to make 9 muffins, baking them for about 20 minutes in greased muffin cups, and one loaf of quick bread, which took about 35-40 minutes. (Half this recipe would make one 9" by 9" cake.) Bake until the sides pull away from the edges and the tops are browned. If you have it, drizzle some syrup (maple or other) over the hot muffins or cake or bread; it will soak in and add a bit of sticky sweetness.

*Note: this recipe is easily made dairy-free by substituting vegetable oil for the butter and non-dairy milk for the milk. It is also gluten-free in its original incarnation. I have never tried it either gluten- or dairy-free so can't vouch for those options.

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