Another thing I got from the farm that I had never tried before was rutabaga. My only familiarity with rutabagas was seeing a neglected one sit on our countertop for a few months in college. I wonder if my roommate ever ate it. I neglected the first one we got on my countertop, but it wasn’t as hardy as my roommate’s and it withered up pretty quick. So when we got another one, I put it in the fridge and I’ve been determined to do something with it. A google search showed me that mashing is the popular approach to rutabagas, although I found that you can also eat them raw and pan-fried. Although I was tempted to make one of my pasta sauces, I decided to go for the mash. Haven’t done that in a while.
You hardly need a recipe to mash a root vegetable. I diced it fairly small, so it would cook fast, and boiled it with salted water until it felt tender when I pierced it with a fork. In the meantime, I minced a clove of garlic and one of my little red peppers – it was like Return of Aglio (Olio) e Peperoncino. Just with butter instead of oil, which I let sit out while the rutabaga cooked so it would be a little soft when it came to mashing time. I had a little low-fat milk, but none of the stuff you should really use in a mash, so I decided to just skip that.
It mashed up fine and I added a little butter and then tasted it. Really quite delicious! I didn’t really expect to like it that much. But I figured I would get bored of it by the end if I didn’t go ahead and add my flavorings, so in they went. That was my downfall. Those peppers are just out of my tolerance zone. How can something so pretty be so evil? I think I got a lot tougher with spicy food in college, but these things are ridiculous. Breathing fire gets in the way of enjoying your food. I also think the garlic would have been better lightly cooked, which I kind of knew, but didn’t want to bother with since they were the only things I had to saute. But according to some websites, I’m less likely to get cancer because I ate raw garlic. Anyway, now I know: I like rutabaga. And I get to add something to my list of quick starch-based dinners: risotto, pasta, pizza, and mashed roots. Of course, I had made mashed potatoes (not real roots, but anyway) and mashed sweet potatoes before, but those always seemed a little trickier. This was super easy. I’ll just have to find something different to throw in next time.
So we got some cauliflower from the farmshare and I almost never eat the stuff. I had an amaaaazing cauliflower soup at my friend’s parent’s restaurant on Anna Maria Island one time, and that’s the only memory I have of ever eating cauliflower. I don’t know how to recreate the soup, nor do I feel like working that hard, so I googled cauliflower recipes and I found that, to my surprise, people seem to prefer dry heat to wet heat. (I was just working on analogy to broccoli, which probably isn’t the best idea). Since I like pan-frying, I decided to try that, following 101 Cookbooks. Well, sort of following it. I’m using whatever I have on hand rather than what she calls for. What I have on hand happens to be garlic and leeks from, you guessed it, the farm. We’ll call it a white dish. I keep some lemon juice ice cubes around and everyone seems to like lemon with their cauliflower, so I threw in some lemon juice, too.
It turned out pretty good, but I give most of the credit to the lemon juice. Somehow nothing else seemed that flavorful. But sure, I’ll add cauliflower to the list of vegetables I eat.
This is one Italian pasta sauce that I was completely unfamiliar with. Which is ridiculous. But I happen to have aglio (garlic) and peperoncino (peppers) from the farm. So I gave it a whirl.
I got contradictory advice from an Italian website and an Italian person. The website said you just use the aglio e peperoncino to flavor the oil, and then you take them out. The person said to leave them in. My loyalty lies with real people. So the trick to this sauce is not to burn the garlic. I left most of it in big pieces so I could take it out if I didn’t like it, because I’m not one of those people who are obsessed with garlic. But I got the big pieces to cook just right – soft, slightly golden, but not brown – and I actually liked them. The problem, rather, was with the peperoncini. I used three little red ones that had been dried, and three was too many. But I washed my hands very carefully immediately after handling them to try to avoid what happened last time I cut a bunch of peppers – apparently the oils stayed on my hands long enough that washing them didn’t help, and they were stinging for the next 24 hours no matter what I tried. Alton Brown says washing your hands with baking soda works, too. What I really need to do is just get some gloves. The website said fresh peppers are better and I think I would have appreciated the extra flavor.
I think I used too much oil – I tried to cover the bottom of my cast iron pan, which I think is 12 inches, and my little single serving of pasta (I go with 80g per person, a tip from the same Italian person) was swimming in it. I used extra virgin olive oil, although the website said it couldn’t take the heat. I found it fine in terms of the heat (as my Italian consultant said “Funziona lo stessoooo” it works the saaaame), but perhaps it isn’t necessary to use the expensive stuff? I don’t know, since it’s such a simple sauce, it seems like extra virgin would be the way to go. The pasta came out a little tough, and I think it had to do with all the sizzling that went on when I put the pasta into the hot pan with the oil. So next time: try the peppers first, don’t overdo the oil, and add the sauce to the pasta rather than the other way around. I’ll report back when I perfect it.