Like the rest of the north this week, New York has been hit with a series of snowstorms. Every day brings a new unexpected rise or drop in temperature, requiring a set of survival skills that put Midwesterners like me at an advantage: puddle jumping, distinguishing between the kind of ice that is walkable and the kind of ice that will send you flying, and the bravery to set forth with no visible sidewalk ahead.
It also requires creativity on the part of a cook who wants leafy greens but has to settle on rutabaga.
I head out into a blizzard to the small grocery co-op nearby on Monday, knowing that I’d have the place to myself. But I didn’t anticipate a lack of vegetables, too. I picked through the remains of Saturday’s delivery: kale, wilted and distressed, and bok choy in need of an ice bath. I settled instead on a bunch of thyme and a bunch of mint, whose leaves were the brightest, strongest ones store-wide.
Three rutabagas, slightly soft on the outside, a head of garlic, and a lemon joined the herbs. Dinner was taking form.
On my way home, I devised a plan to wake up the rutabaga.
I cubed and roasted them (leaving on the nutrient-packed skin). I defrosted some frozen parsley, packaged in a neat little tube by Gourmet Garden, -a gift from a food blogging friend of mine who develops recipes for the company. With parsley, mint, and the thyme, I could add some green to the table. The afternoon yielded a pan of roasted rutabaga and what I call Persian Pesto.
The pesto is bright with lemon, garlic, and mint, balanced out by just a handful of toasted nuts and some olive oil. You can add another clove of garlic to it if you need a reason to restrain yourself from eating it by the spoonful. Once you know how to make it, I suggest making a few batches to store in the refrigerator or freezer for a simple antidote to tired winter vegetables or pasta.
3 rutabagas, cubed into similar sized pieces
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or butter (or enough to lightly coat the rutabaga)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup almonds and/or pistachios (I used a mixture)
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped or pushed through a garlic press
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon Gourmet Garden parsley (or 3/4 cup of packed parsley leaves)
3/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Optional: capers, feta
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Roast the rutabaga: Wash and cube the rutabaga and place on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Give it a few stirs to make sure the rutabaga are evenly coated. Roast for 30 minutes or until creamy in texture and golden on the surface.
3. Meanwhile, toast the nuts. On a pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat, let the nuts toast for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Remove immediately from the heat, and transfer into a glass or ceramic bowl to cool.
4. Make the pesto: Put nuts, garlic, salt, and 1 Tablespoon of oil into the food processor and blend until the nuts and the garlic are minced. Add herbs, lemon juice, and oil and pulse a few times, so that your herbs are roughly chopped and almost identifiable within the puree of nuts and garlic.
4. Assemble your roasted vegetable salad: Transfer rutabaga to a large bowl. Stir in the pesto. Add salt and fresh black pepper to taste. At this point, you can add more lemon juice for a brighter flavor, or a dash more olive oil. You can also try adding 1-2 Tablespoons of capers and crumbled feta.