A New Star for the Oven
By Mark Mulcahy
French fries are a familiar partner with any burger or sandwich in most restaurants. Sweet potato fries have become very popular as well. But they might want to be looking over their shoulder for the next up and coming member of the fry family. Oven-Baked Rutabaga Fries! They aren’t as crisp as the others but they sure are tasty and being oven baked they tend to be a healthier choice. Ok you may not have had a rutabaga before and are wondering what the heck they are?
Usually displayed between the beets, turnips, and parsnips, rutabagas are a member of the mustard family, and are among the most commonly grown root crops. Believed to be a turnip-cabbage hybrid that originated in the early 1600s in Eastern Europe, they adapted well to the northern climate where they were part of the regular diet. The name comes from the Swedish word rotbagga. The association to Sweden must have stuck because they are known as “Swedes” in Europe.
Ok, enough with the history lesson, let’s talk about how to pick them out. When you are at the store, look for Melissa’s organic Rutabagas that feel firm and solid, never spongy, as spongy means they have lost their moisture and are starting to age. Avoid dull or faded looking roots, as they will be woody in texture and unpleasant to eat. Look for a shiny, fairly smooth skin that is tan with a dark purple band on the top. Rutabagas have a yellow flesh and a strong, yet sweet flavor. For the sweetest flavor, choose smallish ones, about 4” in diameter. Rutabagas may even have their fried counterparts beat on the nutrition side as they are high in vitamin C, the B vitamins, calcium, and fiber and are a rich source of beta-carotene and potassium as well. When cooked right they have a sweet, peppery flavor, which makes them tasty additions to salads, soups, or stews. But save those uses for another day and warm up the oven for some fries this weekend.
Oven-Baked Rutabaga Fries (adapted)
2 medium Melissa’s organic rutabagas, peeled and cut into sticks 1/2 inch wide
Olive oil, for drizzling and coating baking pan
¼ teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary
½ teaspoon of finely chopped garlic
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt for sprinkling.
Easy baking instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Another dish I love to make in the fall is gingered organic sweet potatoes.
Combine rutabaga sticks with oil, minced rosemary, garlic, and salt. Toss until evenly coated.
Lay rutabaga fries onto a baking sheet, leaving space between for even crisping. Bake until they are cooked through and crispy on the outside, about 30 minutes.
During the autumn and winter, we all love the taste of Melissa’s organic sweet potatoes in meal settings from dinner parties to simple lunches. They are great in casseroles, as roasted fries, or even as a cold afternoon snack for a quick pick-me-up. The sweet potato flavor is perfectly complemented with the tanginess of orange zest and the zip of fresh ginger. Give it a try and I’m sure you will make it a new favorite of yours.
SWEET POTATOES ORANGE JUICE AND GINGER adapted from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen
3 pounds Melissa’s organic garnet sweet potatoes
Zest from one Melissa’s organic Valencia orange, either in long strips or with a micro plane grater
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4-1/2 cup grade B maple syrup, depending on desired sweetness
1 1/2-3 tablespoons organic olive oil (depending on desired richness)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated organic ginger (using a micro plane grater)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut each one into about eight chunks. If your sweet potatoes are wide, cut them in half lengthwise and then cut each half crosswise into four chunks. If you have really skinny sweet potatoes, just cut them into eight pieces crosswise. Place the sweet potato chunks in a single layer in a 9 x 12-inch baking dish. If using strips of zest, tuck them in amongst the sweet potato chunks.
In a medium bowl, mix together the orange juice, grated zest (if using), maple syrup, olive oil, lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Pour on top of the sweet potatoes. Cover the pan with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, turn the sweet potatoes, and cook for another 30 minutes. If you used strips of orange zest, remove them before serving. Serves six.
Now if these aren’t tasty reasons to turn on the oven this fall, I don’t know what is!