From Scratch: Give Swedes a chance


My Thanksgiving dinner is fairly traditional: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and broccoli or cauliflower. I like it to be a dinner that celebrates the vegetables of fall, so I skip the green bean casserole.

One dish my family loves is a creamy, golden puree that at first might be mistaken for mashed potatoes. One bite, though, will tell you this is tastier than any potatoes you've ever eaten. Behold the rutabaga!

The rutabaga is a natural hybrid between a cabbage and turnip with a history that goes back to the 17th century. It goes by many names: Swede, yellow turnip or neep. Most often it is sold waxed to prevent dehydration through the winter months.

This vegetable is not going to win any beauty contests, so you might have run in the opposite direction if you spied it in the supermarket. However, when cooked, the flavor is a delicate combination of sweet and savory.

Nutrients: In addition, because rutabaga is a member of the Brassica family, which includes broccoli and Brussels sprouts, it is replete with vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium and antioxidant compounds. Give it a try and your Thanksgiving guests will be surprised by the rutabaga's subtle sweetness and creamy texture.

Begin with one large rutabaga. Peel it and cut it into 1-inch pieces. I use a cleaver to do this, and if I can corral my husband, I try to get him to do it as the flesh is quite firm.

Put the cut rutabaga into a medium-size pot and cover it with water. Add one teaspoon of salt and 5 cardamom pods. The cardamom will enhance the rutabaga's natural sweetness.

Bring the water to a boil and cover the pot. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes until the pieces are tender. Drain and discard the cardamom pods.

Place the drained rutabaga in the bowl of a food processor and add 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme. Process until you have a smooth puree. If the texture is not creamy enough, add more cream or milk.

Scrape the puree back into the pot you used to cook the rutabaga. Season with salt and white pepper. When ready to serve, add a bit of milk or cream and warm. If you want to be really indulgent, add a tablespoon of butter.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.