Monday, August 11, 2014

Week 6: Pseudo Fall

It's August 11th and I know that by the time distribution is done for week six it will most likely be in the 80's again, but for now it is chilly and grey.

A chilly and grey day is a great day to transplant fall kale.
Great for the kale, not so much for the farmers.
Also, we have rutabaga in the shares this week. Cold grey weather + fantastic rutabaga = fall as far as I'm concerned. I'm just going to go with it.

In addition to rutabaga, the week 6 share will include mini cabbage, snow peas, parsley, scallions, tomatoes or eggplant or peppers, broccoli or cauliflower or kohlrabi, kale or chard and fennel.

Did I mention the rutabaga is fantastic?

And gorgeous.

It's a variety we have grown for a few years now, called gillfeather turnip. Even though it is called a turnip, right there in its name, it is a rutabaga. They're not actually the same thing.

And this rutabaga has a backstory. Apparently the grower that developed it back in the early 1900's, John Gilfeather, knew that he had something good, and he didn't want other growers to be able to compete with him. All these year's later Gilfeather's variety still outshines other rutabaga. It's even a slow food ark of taste vegetable. Here is what the slow food folks have to say about it:

The Gilfeather is an egg-shaped, rough-skinned root, but unlike its cousins, it has a mild taste that becomes sweet and a creamy white color after the first frost. While the hardy Gilfeather turnip does well in nearly any climate, this touch of frost contributes to its unusual taste and texture. Developed and named after John Gilfeather from Wardsboro, Vermont, this turnip is one of the state’s unique contributions to cold weather agriculture. Mr. Gilfeather carefully guarded his stock to ensure that no one else could propagate the vegetable. However, some seeds slipped by and a few folks have continued to grow the Gilfeather Turnip after Mr. Gilfeather died.

Sweet and creamy may not be what jumps to mind when you hear rutabaga, but gilfeather turnips really are both. 

Even when they are as gnarly looking as this one.
I just cooked that scary looking rutabaga for dinner tonight. In the form of rutabaga au gratin. The texture could best be described as silky.

Rutabaga Au Gratin

1 medium or half a large rutabaga
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 bunch scallions, sliced
1/2 bunch parsley, minced (stick the parsley stems in your freezer for stock!!!)
1 small fennel bulb, sliced (save the leafy fronds for something else--I recommend making syrup out of them)
3-4 Chard or Kale leaves, sliced thinly (I like the chard, it brings another flavor to the dish)
1 cup grated cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

  • Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil.
  • Toss together the sliced scallions, parsley, fennel and chard or kale, set aside.
  • Peel your rutabaga as much as you deem necessary and slice it into pieces approximately 1/4 inch thick.
I only remove the "hairy" parts I can't scrub all the dirt out of and any especially
thick hunks of skin. It works well for me. (I'm on a minor quest to convince people
that peeling root vegetables is almost always unnecessary.)
  • Boil your rutabaga slices for about three minutes. Drain and set aside. This makes their texture extra silky without leaching out too much flavor.
  • Melt one tablespoon butter over low/medium heat. Stir in flour and nutmeg to make a paste (you're making a roux). Stir until the flour/butter mixture is just starting to turn golden.
  • Remove the roux from the heat and stir in one cup of milk. Stir your heart out until you can't see any lumps.
  • Return the pan to low/medium heat and stir until it has thickened slightly. If you aren't sure whether it has thickened or not, taste it. When it is ready, you won't notice a starchy flour taste anymore.
  • Once the sauce is thickened, taste it for salt and paper. Then swirl the bottom of a small casserole dish with some of the sauce.
  • Add a layer of rutabaga, then a layer of chard/kale and whatnot, then a layer of grated cheese.
If you are like me and have a bunch of old restaurant equipment on hand,
things will look like this now. 
  • Continue layering sauce, rutabaga, veggies, and cheese until you run out of ingredients. End with cheese.
  • Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
Eat it up when it looks like this.

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