Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Carrot and Rutabaga Purée with Butter & Nutmeg

From apples and pears to winter squash, brussels spouts, carrots and rutabaga, autumn's bounty of fruits and root vegetables are a delicious and healthy way to add earthy flavours and vibrant colour to any autumn menu. Low in fat and rich in beta carotene and Vitamin A, this silky smooth Rutabaga and Carrot Purée with butter and nutmeg is a luscious way to get back to the roots of autumn's hale and hearty produce. With an intense bitter flavour, some find rutabaga too strong to enjoy, however the sweetness of the carrot combined with the sharp bite of the rutabaga work together in a sophisticated combination that makes a warm and comforting autumn dish perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Historically, the carrot has been traced back 5000 years to Middle Asia around Afghanistan, where it then slowly spread to the Mediterranean through traders who carried the seeds along the trade routes of Arabia, Africa, and Asia, selling them in regions anxious to cultivate new and productive plants. Curiously, when first cultivated, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds rather than their roots; they were also esteemed as a medicinal herb and aphrodisiac among the ancient Greeks and Romans. The earliest vegetable definitely known to be a carrot dates from the 10th-century and would have been quite unlike the sweet succulent orange carrots of today, rather they were originally purple or white with a thin root. 

In the 17th-century a new strain was developed by Dutch farmers who removed the purple pigmentation in the taproot resulting in a new race of yellow carrots, from which orange carrots were subsequently developed. Naturally, non-orange heirloom carrots are now back in fashion! The history of the rutabaga is much more concise. In the early part of the 17th century, Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin crossbred a cabbage with a turnip and got a rutabaga, and voilà. Enjoyed by many roasted, baked or boiled, the roots and tops are also used as winter feed for livestock, which confirms the doubts of some who won't go near the brassica, including my Dad — "it's pig-food!".

Puréed Carrots and Swede with Butter & Nutmeg
Serves 6-8

1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1 tsp salt, to taste

Add the rutabaga and carrots to a large pot. Add water to cover by about 2-3 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the rutabaga and carrots are both very tender, about 60-90 minutes. Drain the vegetables in a colander and drain for a few minutes. Place the vegetables in a food processor with the butter, nutmeg, pepper, and half of the salt, and pulse until it becomes a smooth purée. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as needed. Transfer to a saucepan and gently reheat before serving.