Market Matters: Bake A Rutabaga

It happened again. I ripped off KCRW’s Good Food. This time my victim was Jean Francois Meteigner the chef at La Cachette Bistro in Santa Monica.

When I left the house this morning for the Hollywood Farmers Market I had an open mind about what I would find for my weekly Market Matters post. I was determined to pick something this week that I was unfamiliar with– something new to me, something that would necessitate putting my brain in gear. Stretch myself. Grow a little. Try something new!

I saw English shelling peas in the pod, they super tempted me. Not that they are all that original. I cook with peas almost every week of my life. Still when they are fresh from the market, it’s easy to throw all your other plans out the window. But I decided that the peas were not really peaking yet, and I’d rather wait a few more weeks and be rewarded with perfect peas. Besides there was that promise I made: Stretch myself. Grow a little. Try something new!

rutabaga for bakingAs I made my way through the market, all the usual January suspects were to be found. I saw great citrus, and there were greens aplenty. There were carrots, carrots, and more carrots, some nice potatoes too. But nothing really inspired me. Then it hit me, a KCRW Good Food interview from 2 weeks ago with Jean Francois Meteigner came bursting to the forefront of my consciousness.

Okay, you have to understand that I store information about food in my head the way most Angelinos store obscure rush hour short cuts. You never know when you’re gonna need it and you have no idea where the information comes from. But there it is, like magic; just when you think you are lost for good.

My ah-HA! moment came because I was starring at a pile of purple and gold rutabagas (so that’s what they look like!). While starring at them my brain was desperately trying to recall if I had ever actually eaten a rutabaga before.

Well, as my eyes plainly told me, rutabagas are kinda like a turnip. So I figured I could use them in all the same ways as a turnip. But really, that’s kinda ho-hum… huh? Because turnips tend to fall apart when you cook them, which is great in a stew. Did I want to do a stew? Not really, because I was informed that rutabagas are far “meatier” than a turnip. Naturally, whatever preparation I decided upon, it would have to highlight this great meaty quality. Of course that could still be a stew, a vegetarian stew maybe… but I was still undecided. Then I remembered Laura Avery asked Chef Meteigner the hilariously appropriate question, “just what the heck do you do with a rutabaga?”

baked rutabagaWell, in remembering the interview I recalled that the chef gave some great inspiration for a root vegetable couscous featuring rutabagas. I love the Moroccan flavors he mentioned, and I have a box of very good Israeli couscous in my pantry. But the sound of the recipe made me think that the rutabagas would only be a supporting player in this couscous. Whenever I feature something from the Farmers Market I like it give it a starring role.

I almost dropped that rutabaga right back into the pile in front of me. But, it’s a good thing I hang on to every word of every Laura Avery interview because I recalled that, almost as an after thought, Chef Meteigner suggested baking rutabagas in foil, like a baked potato! He liked to serve them with a drizzle of olive oil and salt & pepper. Interesting…

My brain was starting to kick into gear because, well– you cannot feature a vegetable in any simpler manner than baked now can you? But all that talk about the couscous with a lot of big spice like cumin left me wanting those flavors. Because rutabagas are a root vegetable and like so many other root vegetables they work well with cumin, according to the chef.

In the end I combined both ideas. I did a Baked Rutabaga with Moroccan Spiced Onion Confit. Proving that it is still possible to stretch myself. Grow a little. Try something new!

baked rutabagaBaked Rutabaga with Moroccan Spiced Onion Confit

serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe


  • 6 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 8 pieces of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 t anise seeds
  • 1 T ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 two-inch wide strip of orange peel
  • 2 clv garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 t cumin, or more to taste
  • 1/2 c fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 3 T honey
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 ds red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 2 T chives, minced (for garnish)

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large heavy saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and salt, then turn the heat down to medium. Stir to get the onions well coated in the oil. Sweat onions, covered for 10 minutes. Stirring from time to time to prevent sticking. They should be well-softened and translucent.

Add the sun-dried tomato pieces and stir to incorporate. Cook another 1 or 2 minutes to combine the flavors.

Turn the heat to low. Add the cinnamon sticks, anise seeds, ginger, orange peel, garlic, ground cumin, orange juice, honey and cayenne. Simmer the mixture, stirring often for about 1 hour. You may need to add a bit of water from time to time to keep the pan from drying out.

When finished taste for seasoning. It may need more salt and some white pepper or a dash of red wine vinegar. Remove the confit from the heat and let come to room temperature. It may be stored in the refrigerator up to 5 days and brought back to room temperature before serving as well.

Wrap each of the rutabagas separately in foil. Place them on the center rack of a preheated oven. Bake at 375 degrees F for 1 hr 45 minutes or until a knife is easily inserted all the way to the rutabagas with very little resistance.

To serve split each rutabaga, baked potato style; using a fork to fluff up the meat of the vegetable. Give each one a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and white pepper and top them with some of the onion confit. Garnish with chives and serve warm.


Greg Henry