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The Perfect Winter Vegetable

By Mark Mulcahy

I've got a new favorite salad for my winter months ahead; it is made from rutabagas and is absolutely delicious! If you are not familiar with rutabagas, you are in for a treat.

Rutabagas, a Cruciferae or mustard family member, are among the most commonly grown root crops. As history notes, it's believed to be a turnip-cabbage hybrid that originated in Bohemia in the early 1600s (part of Slovakia). The vegetables adapted well to the northern climate, where they were part of the regular diet and fed to the animals. They soon were commonly grown in Britain, where they were referred to as turnip-rooted cabbages, and in Scandinavia where they were given their name. The name comes from the Swedish word rotbagga. The association with Sweden must have stuck because they are known as swedes in the marketplace throughout Europe. In Scotland, along with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), they are a popular accompaniment to haggis (a recipe made of sheep's organs). If you really want to get in the spirit of Outlander, then here's your chance. If haggis sounds like a little much, then stick with this recipe to start; Roasted Rutabaga Salad with Charred Onion and Toasted Pistachios that I adapted from.

To make the best salad start with the best rutabaga! Melissa's Organic Rutabagas should feel firm and solid, never spongy. Look for shiny, relatively smooth tan skin with a dark purple band on the top. Avoid dull or faded looking roots, as they will be woody in texture. Rutabagas have yellow flesh and a strong yet sweet flavor. For the sweetest taste, choose small rutabagas, about 4" in diameter.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 Melissa's Organic Rutabagas, medium-sized, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/4 inch thick)
1 cup very finely diced Melissa's Organic Yellow Onion
1 teaspoon chopped Melissa's Organic Fresh Thyme

2 tablespoons toasted pistachios, crushed with a knife
3 cups Melissa's Organic Baby Arugula
3 cups Melissa's Organic Romaine Lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of olive oil with 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and mix with a whisk. Brush the marinade on the rutabaga slices and arrange in a single layer on baking sheets (you may need to do 2 rounds).

Bake rutabagas for 8 to 12 minutes or until they become tender in the middle. Remove and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, heat a stainless-steel sauté pan with the remaining olive oil. When the oil gets very hot, add the onions and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes or until they are very brown. Halfway through the cooking, add the remaining teaspoon of salt and pepper.

Deglaze the onions with the remaining apple cider vinegar. Reduce the vinegar for 2 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in the thyme.

Let the onions and rutabaga cool.

Divide the arugula into four bowls. Top with rutabaga and onion mix. Sprinkle with pistachios. If needed, drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.

Fun Fact: While you are making up the salad, you may find it nice to know that rutabagas are a perfect winter food. They are high in vitamins C and B, calcium and fiber, and rich in beta-carotene and potassium. When cooked right, they have a sweet, peppery flavor, making them tasty additions to salads, soups, or stews.

Storage: Before cooking, store rutabagas in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
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