Last year I planted rutabagas as a second crop after the greens (spinach, chard, mesclun) were done. They were fun to grow – they came up fast, and they were visible. Unlike carrots, I could see the bulging purple tops rising out of the ground. Immediate gratification!
Unfortunately, I harvested only a few before the freezing weather hit. The ground seized up solid and they were stuck! Then it snowed and they’ve been covered. This weekend the weather was in the 50’s and the snow melted and the ground softened. I pulled up a basketful.
Some were cold damaged. I could tell by the texture and color. But a few rutabagas were in perfect shape. I can imagine what it was like, years ago, when your own garden was your only source of vegetables and how, after a difficult winter, you found a treasure like these remaining rutabagas in your garden.
I brought them in, washed them and pared off the peel and areas that had gone too green. Cut them into 1-inch chunks and put in my favorite old enameled cast-iron pan. Tossed them with oil, salt and pepper and roasted them at 350 for an hour. Then, as soon as they came out of the oven I topped with a handful of cheese and ate immediately.
It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s the attention to details that matter when working with only a few ingredients. The rutabagas were trimmed so that only the best parts were cooked. The oil was a mild olive oil. Not the most expensive, but just right for roasting vegetables. The salt was Sicilian sea salt that I brought back from Rome. Yes, those expensive salts do taste different than table salt. The pepper was fresh cracked from my mill. The cheese? Real Parmesan. The sum of the parts was perfect – sharp, salty, sweet and peppery.
I’m sorry that I don’t have a photo. I was going to go into the garden today and take a picture of the remaining rutabagas left to harvest. However, it is, once again, snowing. (sigh) I think that the thaw and now this freeze will ruin the rutabagas still in the ground. I’ve now had two chances to harvest those rutabagas… do you think I’ve learned my lesson?