Sunday, November 23, 2008

Or, I Say It's Spinach and I Say To Hell With It

If there's one root vegetable I cannot abide, it's rutabag, a.k.a. Swedish turnip or Swede. I find the taste utterly disagreeable.

Yet, I buy a few every winter fall, when young specimens are available, because She Who Must Be Obeyed adores them. Must be her Scandihoovian heritage.

As it happens, Earl Livengood had excellent looking rutabagas at the Reading Terminal Market yesterday. But they weren't loose in a bin. They were still connected to their tops. The greens were pristine and deep emerald green, absolutely gorgeous.

In preparing SWMBO's mashed rutabaga today (with lots of butter and a little whole milk), I just couldn't throw out those greens. My only concern was that they might, unbeknownst to me, harbor a toxin, like the oxalic acid found in rhubarb leaves. Multiple sources on the web indicated it could be treated just like any other winter green. So, using the same water in which I cooked the rutabaga tubers, I simmered the washed leaves for about 12-15 minutes until tender, then shocked them in cold water, drained and squeezed out the excess water. They'll sit in the fridge for a day or two until I get around to combining them with ricotta for a lasagne filling.

To accompany tonight's ham steak dinner will be two members of the brassica family. The aforementioned mashed rutabaga, and those tiny little cabbage heads, Brussels sprouts. I picked up the tiny packaged versions sold by Benuel Kaufman and simmered them in salted water for less than 10 minutes. When it's time to eat I'll reheat them in a sauté pan with butter and a dab of Dijon mustard (mustard being another brassica). The ham is a nicely smoked steak from Smith's Log Smokehouse of Monroe, Maine. I acquired the ham (and some chorizo and other goodies) this past summer while visiting Mt. Desert Island, where Smith's sells at the Sunday Bar Harbor farmers' market. The piece I pulled from the freezer a month ago was delish.

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