Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall: It's a Good Thing - Apple Rutabaga Mash

Mums! A sign of fall. Photo: NK
Here's the thing about me - 

I'm having trouble with the thought of letting go of summer.

In fact, even as I write this, I am enjoying the delicious, summery Bay Breeze my mom made me (click for the recipe). 

Isn't she the best? 

Though I can't bear the thought of the cruel bondage of closed toe shoes, undeniably, the colder months are coming on.

Still, I'm keeping my eye on the prize:

Good hair weather.

Call me shallow, but this is a major cool weather perk. 
Ladies, I know you feel me. 

Though summer is a clear favorite, today, I'm reminding myself of the good things that fall can bring. In fact, I thought I'd make a little list. As you might expect, we'll finish off by sharing a recipe for a healthy and easy autumn side dish - Apple Rutabaga Mash. So without further adieu, here are just a few of the things I love about fall:

Gala and Honeycrisp Apples, Photo: NK

Folks forget that apples have a season. For the most part, they peak from late summer to early fall. Knowing which of the numerous types of apples are best and when is key to maxing out your apple enjoyment. Equally important is discerning which varieties are best for eating or baking.  To get you started, the two varieties pictured above are great right now: Honeycrisp and Gala. So good! Also - check out this handy guide to apple seasonality (with a little bonus apple history too!). 

2. Figs
Truly nature's candy, figs are as elegant and striking as fruit gets. At their best, they're honey-sweet and positively decadent. Just look at these beautiful Mission Figs drizzled in balsamic honey and sprinkled with coarse salt - visual drama and a sweet/savory taste bud explosion in just two steps. Here they are paired with a late summer tomato salad and marinated eggplant, two ways. (left: Easy Marinated Eggplant, right: Herb Marinated Eggplant with White Balsamic) Figs also make a regular appearance at our annual fall dinner party - check out our Foolproof Fall Menu for Six.

Photo: NK

Want to work figs into your dinner plan? Try this tasty Fig Pasta with Pancetta. So good! And pretty, if I do say so myself.

3. Cozy Soups
One of the best things about fall and, dare I say it, winter fare (eek). 
Here's just one of my favorite recipes for Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.

Squash and Apple Soup, Photo: NK

Now for the main event:

Large, bulbous and usually pretty rough in appearance, Rutabaga is not winning any beauty contests. However, this fall and winter veggie (in season October-March) is great when mashed up or even shaved (then sauteed in butter!). In general, rutabagas make for a delicious, hearty vegetarian side dish. It should be noted that the vegetable itself is a real trick to slice up. You'll need a good, heavy and long knife, some elbow grease, and a keen sense of safety. If you've ever hacked into a butternut squash, you'll know what I mean. It's easier to cut the rutabaga into fourths with the skin on and then peel it later, as this way, the cutting is less of a slippery operation. Here's our favorite simple and healthy rutabaga side. We aimed to preserve the rutabaga's natural earthiness while adding a tiny bit of sweetness from an apple and spice from the nutmeg, cinnamon, and cayenne. 

Apple Rutabaga Mash, Photo: NK

Apple Rutabaga Mash
Serves 4

1 medium Rutabaga, peeled with a veggie peeler and cut into small cubes
1 medium Red Apple, with skin (we used a Honeycrisp), cored and sliced into small cubes
1 Tablespoon Salted Butter
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Agave, Honey, or Maple Syrup
A few pinches of Nutmeg
A few pinches of Cinnamon
A few pinches of Chili Powder or Cayenne

Cover the apple and rutabaga cubes with salted water and place on medium high heat, allowing to boil for about 30 minutes until both apples and rutabaga are very tender. 

Drain and return them to the pot and mash with a potato masher. Stir in the butter until melted, then add all the remaining ingredients. Mix. Feel free to adjust to your tastes. Serve hot and enjoy! 

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