Thursday, 10 January 2008

Smashed Swede with Pears and Ginger

There was something about the vegetable named 'rutabaga' that always made me want to giggle. I had never knowingly eaten one (my parents weren't big vegetable pushers) so I'm not sure where the fondness for saying those syllables came from, but between rutabaga and ratatouille, the 'R' section in the food alphabet provided me with much mirth.

The next amusing vegetable name came to light as an adult, when I moved to Britain and heard there was something called a swede. What made someo
ne name this one veg after that nationality, I wondered? And where was your greek, your irish, and your spaniard in your vegetable drawer? Well, imagine how happy it made me to find out that the veg name that was making me giggle as an adult was actually another name for the same rutabaga that delighted me so much as a child. I felt like I had come full circle and that the spheres of the Universe were working as they ought.

Now, during all of this silliness, I had never actually bothered to taste our humble swede/rutabaga. I just didn't know what to do with it. I tried buying one and throwing it in with some stew, but that wasn't hugely revealing as to what the vegetable was really like. A year passed. Another winter, I tried roasting it with a host of other winter vegetables but it once again got subsumed between the other tastes of carrots, parsnips and squashes. Another year passed. I tried stew again - ho hum. Then, this winter, there was a confluence of events: I spotted a recipe on epicurious for mashed rutabaga that
sounded intriguing, and Mr A&N's mother (prolific gardener and healthy person extraordinairre) brought some home-grown swedes with her when she was up visiting for Christmas. The stage was set for the Great Swede Experiment, Winter 2007/2008 Chapter.

The epicurious recipe was quite simple: it called to boil the swede while roasting the pears with ginger and lemon juice. The two factions would come together after a bit of mashing and the addition of cream and thyme. All went well in the making of it, but no one was that bowled over by the sweet and creamy taste that tried to mask the fact there was a vegetable involved. And I once again didn't get a sense for what the swede itself was like.

After a few attempts, my guess is that the swede isn't the most flavor-packed of the winter vegetables but is fine to use accompanying other veg or in a mash. The next time I cook with it, though, I might insist on making everyone refer to it as a rutabaga - which can only improve the taste.

Smashed Swede with Pears and Ginger

  • 4 pounds swede, peeled, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 firm Anjou pears (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, cored, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Coarse kosher salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 400 F
  2. Boil the swede in water for about 35 minutes or until the pieces are tender.
  3. Combine oil, lemon juice, ginger, and sugar in large bowl. Add pears; toss to coat.
  4. In a oven-proof ceramic dish or a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray, lay out the pear mixture.
  5. Roast until tender, turning pears every 10 minutes, about 35 minutes total.
  6. Drain the swede and return to same pot. Mash to until it's a coarse puree.
  7. Stir over medium heat until excess moisture evaporates, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add cream, butter, and thyme.
  9. Mix in pears and any juices from baking sheet.
  10. Season with salt and pepper.


DaviMack said...

You know, we never know what to do with these things, either - but we subscribe to a local / organic food box from some growers in our area, and they keep bringing the things!

Last attempt: swede fries. We sliced the swede into fry-sized bits, boiled them until just done, dunked them in cold water, and now can season and bake them. We still know that there's a swede involved, but it's about the only edible way we've found, aside from soup, to eat the things!

Thanks for the new recipe to try!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I love pear and ginger together. Not sure I'd like it with swede though.

Have you tried cream of swede soup?
Or raw & thinly sliced, as thin as a crisp and then pickled is nice. I love it plain, boiled and then mashed with lots of butter and a little salt and pepper.

Anonymous said...

I just recently found out that a rutabaga and swede are one in the same! I usually just roast and do a quick sautéed for flavor, but I'll have to try your version soon.

Wendy said...

Finns generally aren't keen on Swedish people. There is a real rivallry there. When I told my students in Finland that the vegetable that they knew as "lanttu" was called "swede" in English they loved it! :)

Emiline said...

Well, I've never had them mashed. I've only had rutabagas roasted with other veg.
The combination of pears and lemon juice sounds intriquing. I'll have to try this. I've been ignoring the rutabagas for way too long.

Annemarie said...

Hi Dave - I like the sound of the swede fries. I know what you mean about the winter vegetables that won't quit; I can always tell that spring is around the corner when I'm about ready to throw the next celeriac/cabbage/parsnip through the window...

Hi Amanda- I haven't tried cream of swede soup or pickling them, but both sound good. I think mashing also goes a long way to helping out very many vegetables.

Hi Gigi - strangely, I've never tried sauteeing. Hmm, maybe I need to go back to basics...

Hi Wendy - that's brilliant. did it help with the rivalry in that it's a vegetable many people find it hard to love?

Hi Emiline - I think we all ignore rutabagas until desperate times (i.e., winter) drives us into its arms...

DaviMack said...

For me, then, Spring was around the corner before Winter had even begun! :)

DaviMack said...

Hey! I posted the procedure for making fries here, in case you're interested.