Thursday, January 3, 2013

Oven Roasted Rutabagas and Mr. Van

**sigh**  I don't suppose there's a single food consumed here that doesn't bring back a memory or two.  Even rutabagas bring back thoughts of great fondness from young family days lived in Oxford, Mississippi and our next door neighbors there, Mr. Van and Mrs. Faye.  Mr. Van loved rutabagas, too;  Mrs. Faye didn't like to cook them, didn't like the way the smelled up her house.

It's the nature of a Southern cook to cook too much.  Store bought rutabagas this time of year are gargantuan, compared to those grown in home gardens in the area.  And there's no such thing as cooking only half a rutabaga.  We hadn't been living in Oxford long before I'd bought one and cooked the huge pot of them, plenty enough to share with the neighbors we were still getting to know, along with a half-pan of cornbread.  Mrs. Faye was pleased to have a neighbor that could cook but Mr. Van was one very happy retired truck driver with the gesture.

They became a part of our lives and Mr. Van became a fixture in the kitchen.  Several times a year, he'd bring over a rutabaga and, with a sly grin ask "You reckon it's fit to eat?"  His tall, lean person, topped with a shock of white hair and ever-present hat would offer the vegetable and usually a small portion of salt meat.  "I don't know, Mr. Van,"  I'd say, "But I reckon we can find out."

Friends come and go, moving in and out of our lives but good neighbors, I find, are hard to replace.  Mr. Van died several years ago.  Mrs. Faye and I talk several times a year.  They'll always be our neighbors, though.  And I'll always think of Mr. Van with every rutabaga.

Tonight I've cooked oven-roasted rutabagas.  They're super easy to prepare;  the ingredients list is short; and take little time to cook.  AND they're heart friendly, with no saturated fats whatsoever.

You'll need a rutabaga, coarse salt, and extra virgin olive oil.
Preheat oven to 500 F.  Yep.  500.  It's not going to take this deliciousness but 30 minutes to cook.

Peel and cut rutabaga into huge steak-fries size, roughly 1/2 into to 3/4 inch sticks.  I'd been gifted these locally grown rutabagas.   I was going to can them but decided to have them for supper instead.
This is a 14 X 18 baking sheet.  I like to line it with foil
because it is one of the cake pans.  The foil
assures that there won't be any funky stuff
to have to scrub before a cake gets baked in it.
And it makes clean-up a snap, too.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.  How much?  Use enough to oil to coat the rutabagas (maybe a half-cup?) and roughly a tablespoon of salt for this big pan full.  They can be salted after cooking, too, but I enjoy having the seasoning braised right in to the vegetable.

Cover with foil and put on lowest rack in preheated oven for fifteen minutes.

Take foil off rutabagas and turn/flip/maneuver them over.  Put back into oven for another fifteen minutes.  You can hear them sizzling and the aroma, I must disagree with Mrs. Faye, is far from undesirable.  

Ding!  They're ready!  Be careful, you'll want to sample them right out of the pan before they ever reach a serving dish and wowzers are they hot!  
See how nice and brown?  MMmmmmmm...

Tadadaaaa!  No sugar is necessary to sweeten them, no other fats needed to flavor them.  They're a little different from traditionally prepared rutabagas but if you love rutabagas like me and Mr. Van, you'll still enjoy them.

And don't forget to share...

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