Tuesday, January 4, 2011

rutabaga mash

rutabaga mash

How did you ring in the New Year? Was it calm and quiet with you and just a few friends or your significant other? Or was it decadent and festive, a Manhattan in one hand and a caviar blini in the other? Me – I chopped off a piece of my finger while making lasagna, and were it not for Andrew stepping in and making the lasagna by himself (with me looking on), we would have shown up to our friends’ party one dish short. It all worked out in the end, trauma aside, even though I now type with nine fingers, while the injured digit rests all bandaged up. It really isn’t so horrible (I’m such a drama queen), but being that it’s my worst cooking injury to date, naturally I’m a little unnerved by it.

So coming off of a busy December, we plunge head on into a full January. 2011, I expect great things of you! There are changes abound, all of them good, but I’m because I’m a creature of habit, because I don’t seek out change on my own (a haircut, or new nail polish doesn’t count) I am, a tiny bit, laced with fear. In the last month since I hinted at some news, I got many emails guessing what these news might be. Suffice to say, they ran the gamut of typical things people “announce”. Well, I’ve kept you wondering long enough. So here goes.

rutabaga mash

First things first. Andrew – he of the save-the-day-with-cooking-lasagna fame – is moving in. The Sassy Radish kitchen will become busier, more actively used going forward, since we used to spend weekdays at his Manhattan apartment and now it’ll be all-Brooklyn-all-the-time. I could try to write as to how excited I am by this, but words fall short of how I really feel. Andrew is the force unseen behind this site. He’s an editor, an idea-generator, a diligent dish-washer, a taster, a guinea-pig, a consumer of food, an enthusiastic promoter of chocolate and all things dessert, a cheerleader, a nurse (he doesn’t faint at the sight of gushing blood), a cloud-gazer, a navigator and finder of food destinations in foreign places where I manage to get us both lost, and a lovely partner in crime, whatever the crime may be. Before Andrew, I had a pretty good life. I was happy and busy. But I was peeking into the world I really wanted to inhabit, too scared to jump in. I was like that kid who would press her nose against the foggy glass from the outside, watching a party she wasn’t a part of but a party she desperately wanted to join. Andrew’s given me that additional boost, that confidence. He believes in me so much, particularly during the moments when I doubt myself. And in the last eight months my life has been brighter and richer than ever before, and he’s made me feel that I can really accomplish anything. He makes me feel like the superhero version of myself.

Which brings me to announcement number two. In the last several months, Andrew and I would talk at length about our dreams and passions, and in the course of those conversations one thing became crystal clear: I needed a redirect, a change, a new course. So, as of February 1, I will no longer play a finance geek by day. I’m going to take a giant leap and hope that the universe will catch me. I hope to be cooking and writing, to spend more time here in the process, to jump into this world I want, to reshape my life, my career. I have some projects in the works I’m excited about, but overall it’s a clean slate, a blank page. I have so much to learn: cooking techniques, applying for freelance assignments, things I don’t even yet know I have to learn. I know that as events unfold, I will figure them out. And I know that everything will fall into place. I have that faith and I’m determined to make it happen. I now realize that you, and only you, have the power to reshape your life, make giant leaps, take on risks. I’m excited and, at the same time, scared. To go from a structured day sitting at a desk to an unstructured one can be daunting, but I have faith that everything will work out. And Andrew has been there to cheer me on in my moments of doubt and weakness.

rutabaga mash

For many years now, I have suspected that the practical choice of going into finance as a career was not my calling. I’ve liked some things about my job and I got really good at it. But I’ve never felt alive about, never leaped out of bed to check the business news (to this day I don’t even know what channel CNBC is on), never knew (unless an epic event occurred) whether the markets finished up or down. From time to time I’d share my frustrations with friends and family, who, at times, would hint that maybe I should make that leap. I just wasn’t ready. But the clues were there. All my magazines were either literary or food-related. Mysteriously, Business Week started to arrive at my doorstep, but would find its way to the recycling bin, unopened. But come every Wednesday, I’d read the New York Times’ Dining section cover to cover before I’d even showered. And that tells you something. It’s time to make that change. Time to make and let things happen. Time to follow my dreams and passions.

Today I have something very simple for you – rutabaga mash. I used to make it for myself in college when I lived on a ridiculously restrictive budget. And it was the sort of a simple and comforting meal that would ground me in moments of uncertainty. I would just make some mash, put on my fleece trousers and curl up on the couch watching the snow fall softly. Rutabagas were practically free in Pittsburgh, no doubt confusing many shoppers with their rather unattractive outside. Just look at them – beauties they are not. If you quietly listen in the green-market, I’m sure you can hear a rutabaga whimpering about how it’s the second ugliest vegetable to celery root. But beneath the unattractive exterior lies something delicious. Peel a rutabaga and your kitchen will be filled with its sweet, earthy perfume.

I swear!
(Image courtesy of Russell Freedman)

I had forgotten all about this mash after college. Which is a shame, because when the weather gets frigid, it’ just about the loveliest thing to eat. It’s a nice switch to mashed potatoes and it’s so perfectly wintry. So it’s been years since I made this, but a few weeks ago, when Andrew and I decided on having a vegetarian supper I was looking through some cookbooks for inspiration, and found it in the Canal House books. Their rutabaga mash, like mine, is less of a recipe and more of a rough guide.

But the following sentence caught my eye and has become my favorite cooking sentence ever. After advising you to season the mash generously, you are to “add as much butter as your conscience will allow.” Which is to say that my conscience will allow a very generous hunk of butter to descend upon my rutabaga mess. The Canal House preparation for this, like mine, is simple, because rutabagas are just perfect without much fussing about. With the addition of butter and some salt and pepper, they are transformed, and I used to add caramelized onions to mine. The Canal House suggests chopped scallions instead. Both versions are good, but I prefer mine a little more because I think most things are made better by caramelized onions. Go ahead and try them both ways. And if, given the new resolutions and all, butter is off the menu, reach for the olive oil – it is, after all, mere days after the New Year. Though, by the same argument, it is only the beginning of the year – and the possibilities, I hope, are endless.

And so I am excited, elated, exuberant about the possibilities. And I am grateful, so so grateful to all of you for your support, encouragement, time. Thank you for coming here and sharing this space and cheering me on. Without you, it wouldn’t be the same or fun. You are all a source of support and inspiration to me – and I hope that in the year to come we continue to share stories, recipes and memories here. I can’t wait.

*Huge thanks to Russ for putting together the cutest root vegetable graphic in history!

Rutabaga Mash
Inspired by Canal House Cooking, Volume 2

If you want to experiment, you can play around with add-ons to your mash. Besides caramelized onions or scallions, there are plenty of other options. Some green peas, perhaps, or caramelized leeks would go great with the mash. Maybe you want to add some roasted garlic – just a few cloves will do that trick. Play around and see which accent you like the best!

2 large rutabagas, peeled and cut into medium size pieces
1 Russet potato, peeled
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter
½ cup chopped scallions, white and green parts only or
½ cup caramelized onions (to learn how to caramelize onions, see here)


Place rutabagas and potato into a large pot of salted cold water. Bring everything to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and cook for about 60 minutes, until the rutabagas are tender and easily pierced with a fork.

Drain the vegetables. In an empty pot, over medium heat melt the butter, and when melted return the rutabagas and potatoes back into the pot and mash with a potato masher until you get a smooth mass, with a few lumps here and there. Stir in caramelized onions. If you want to add scallions, add them while the butter is melting and cook for two minutes before adding the rutabagas and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. And, as per Canal House instructions, “add as much butter as your conscience will allow.”

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  • 1
    Amanda said:

    CONGRATULATIONS!! I am so happy for you Olga. I can’t wait to hear your kitchen adventures. Let’s plan that lunch date soon. xoxo Amanda

    January 4, 2011 12:28 pm
  • 2
    Winnie said:

    Such great news (except for the hacking off some of your finger part)… all the best in 2011- I just know it’s going to be a great year for you :)

    January 4, 2011 12:38 pm
  • 3
    Winnie said:

    ps I love rutabaga- I grew lots in my garden this year :)

    January 4, 2011 12:38 pm
  • 4
    kickpleat said:

    Looks like 2011 is already shaping up to be quite a year! Whoooo & all the best!

    January 4, 2011 12:55 pm
  • 5
    Nicole said:

    Best of luck on your new journey! Andrew sounds like a keeper :) I enjoy rutabaga, but I wish they were easier to cut through. A creative idea for a low-budget meal.

    January 4, 2011 1:01 pm
  • 6
    LadyGouda said:

    Congrats on all the great new things and big changes in your life! Wow, very inspriring. Your determination will ensure that you will be successful in anything that you do, I’m sure of it.

    January 4, 2011 1:09 pm
  • 7

    Long time reader and just want to say congrats. That’s really exciting and inspiring. I’m new to writing my own blog and am finding the more my love grows for blogging and food the more I’m hating my desk job. Congratulations on following your true passion and best of luck!

    January 4, 2011 1:10 pm
  • 8
    Renee said:

    It’s rutmus! :) http://tiny.cc/5or87
    And congratulations! As C.S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
    You will be phenomenal.

    January 4, 2011 1:37 pm
  • 9
    Adrienne said:

    Hooray! It’s the best leap ever. Congratulations and good luck :)

    January 4, 2011 2:20 pm
  • 10
    Christine said:

    Congratulations on the new living arrangements and changes in your work life! You sound happier already :)

    January 4, 2011 2:45 pm
  • 11
    MJ said:

    YAYYY! I’m happy for you! I’m very similar – a lawyer but always read the food and dining section, and arts/books sections, first. Law? Tax? Finance? M&A? Ugh! That’s work, not pleasure!

    Yep – once you realize that it is not your passion and calling you do want to flee (I sure do – still trying to figure out where and how).

    January 4, 2011 3:47 pm
  • 12
    KJ said:

    I hope the universe greets you with open loving arms. Congratulations on your new path, I am sure you will find your way.

    January 4, 2011 4:29 pm
  • 13
    Colin said:

    Couldn’t be happier for you, and for Andrew!

    January 4, 2011 4:44 pm
  • 14
    Foodiebia said:

    Congrats on the life changes! I’m sure both will be wonderful. I love your blog and read it at my boring desk job whenever you do a new post. I look forward to reading more now that you are focusing more on food!

    January 4, 2011 4:54 pm
  • 15

    Wow, double whammy of great news! When do you officially depart cubicle-land?

    My fiancé and I are in the process of moving in together right now. I have never lived with a boyfriend before so I’m a little nervous but excited as well- cooking for one on weeknights got old a long time ago.

    Best wishes for success with endeavors both personal and professional in the new year! Xo

    January 4, 2011 5:15 pm
  • 16
    Charlotte said:

    Congrats on all the wonderful news and hopefully your finger continues to heal (ouch!) I make this mash all the time, only I usually add half carrots as well and occasionally sweet potatoes. Thanks for giving this humble dish a spotlight!

    January 4, 2011 5:50 pm
  • 17

    Congratulations on the happy changes to come, and best wishes for fully recovered finger!

    January 4, 2011 6:17 pm
  • 18
    Radish said:

    Gosh everyone thank you for such an outpour of support!! Thank you!

    January 4, 2011 7:06 pm
  • 19
    Kasey said:

    Congrats on taking this leap of faith, Olga. You only live one life, so might as well live it passionately!

    January 4, 2011 7:13 pm
  • 20

    Congratulations, Olga! You’re right, no one is going to take these scary but exciting steps for us. We have to lay our plans, follow our hearts, and take that leap of faith.

    Sounds like you have an awfully good partner in crime there, to walk the path with you. I’m so glad.

    January 4, 2011 7:27 pm
  • 21
    Katie said:

    Congratulations to you on following your dream! Best of luck with it.

    This reminds me of the rutabaga mash I had growing up…I will have to give this recipe a try!

    January 4, 2011 11:49 pm
  • 22
    Helene said:

    Good luck for everything! So excited that you let your heart and your soul open up this wide! It will pay off! Do things your own way and with passion and it’ll happen!

    January 5, 2011 12:03 am
  • 23
    Jaye said:

    a wonderful leap to make – I predict (!!) you will be posting next year about how you cannot believe you ever considered NOT doing this!

    January 5, 2011 3:22 am
  • 24
    Martha Joy said:

    Best of luck! You’re really making a huge change in your life.

    Do you know that mashed rutabaga is a part of the Christmas meal here in Norway? I’ve never tasted it with onions, but I will definitely try that next time. We often add some carrots for colour and sweetness. Some people also add bechamel-sauce, but I don’t like that, since that makes it non glutenfree. But what is essential is nutmeg. Nutmeg is really good with this.

    In season I love to eat raw rutabaga, just peeled and sliced into sticks. Good with dressing and without. But the ones I get now are more bitter and drier than the one I had in early fall, so I don’t eat them raw now.

    January 5, 2011 5:03 am
  • 25
    Arezou said:

    Congratulations! I fully support leaps of faith and wonderful partners in crime :)

    I’ve never bought a rutabaga before…that will change shortly.

    January 5, 2011 10:18 am
  • 26
    mel said:

    what an inpiring post. i wish you all the best on your new journey! love your rutabaga mash recipe. i’ve been calling them neeps since moving to scotland. in england they call them swedes. whatever they are called they are proper winter comfort food.

    my favourite recipe is for Rumbledethumps which is basically equal parts of potato and rutabaga cooked and mashed. then mix with shredded savoy cabbage which has been cooked until tender. turn into baking dish, top with grated mature cheddar and bake until golden. yummmm!

    January 5, 2011 11:30 am
  • 27
    Kim said:

    So happy for you! Wow- lots of REALLY GOOD changes. Congratulations! 2011 is going to be great for you and Andrew.

    I too, have a “day job” that pays the bills, but I don’t consider what I do my true calling. In fact, the husband and I dream of someday owning and operating a little bistro in town, and behind the scenes, we’re working to make that happen. In the meantime, we’re just plugging away, hoping the clock doesn’t tick too fast and we miss our chance to follow-through on that dream.

    Best wishes to you! Look forward to following along…


    January 5, 2011 12:30 pm
  • 28
    Anne said:

    Good luck! I think the internet is so inspiring for this reason — we see everyday people making big leaps and it makes us know it is a worthwhile risk. Three cheers.

    January 5, 2011 12:56 pm
  • 29
    Kathleen said:

    Congratulations on all things happening for you. I am happy you will not be freezing at work anymore, that alone will make you a great success!

    January 5, 2011 1:36 pm
  • 30

    Congratulations, my friend! I am so happy that you are going to be happy! I feel the same way sometimes (re: watching the party), but I just pray that things will get better. Cheers to the awesome mash and great news! :)

    January 5, 2011 2:31 pm
  • 31
    Radish said:

    Kamran – so long as you don’t wind up in banking, I think you’ll be safe ;) You will get there. Just follow your heart.

    Kasey, Tea, Katie, Helene, Jaye, Martha Joy, Arezou, Mel, Kim, and Anne – You guys brought happy tears to my eyes. Thank you all for your support!

    January 5, 2011 2:35 pm
  • 32

    So, I’ve never had a rutabaga. Does it taste like a potato or how would you describe the taste? Sounds intriuging for sure!

    Props to you for taking that leap of faith and jumping out of the storm and into your soulful place. May you prosper in this new year!

    January 5, 2011 2:56 pm
  • 33
    Radish said:

    Amy – it has a rootlike taste. Definitely not a potato. Closer to a turnip or a parsnip if that helps.

    January 5, 2011 4:11 pm
  • 34
    Marianne said:

    This looks delicious. I just happened to have a rutabaga, too, which is strange because I NEVER buy them. But this week I did. So I guess it is meant to be that I try your rutabaga mash!

    January 6, 2011 5:20 pm
  • 35

    Yay, yay, yay! I’m so happy for you on so many levels! I love what you said about Andrew making you feel like the superhero version of yourself. I hope to find that someday, too. And it sounds like change is a’brewing in a good way. Take it all in! It always sounds so cheesy when people say it, but there really is something to that old ‘you have to close a door for another to open’ saying…here’s to wide open doors!

    January 7, 2011 2:58 am
  • 36
    Rachel said:

    Your post inspired me to begin my own blog, and start doing things that make me happy, more often!

    Congrats on the big news! I’m sure it will be a very exciting and hectic time of your life. Remember the freedom you felt when you first made the decision, hopefully that will help you get through any hard times.

    If you have any advice to someone that is just starting a blog, I would love to hear your opinions. Thanks, and good lucK!

    January 7, 2011 10:54 am
  • 37
    Radish said:

    Rachel – Wow, inspired? Thank you! I’m so glad! My only advice is keep at it, create meaningful content, and always strive to improve! Everything else will fall into place.

    January 7, 2011 1:44 pm
  • 38

    Congratulations on all of your upcoming career changes! It takes bravery and courage to switch mid-career, and I’m so proud of you for doing so. And congrats on your new roomie! He sounds like a pretty awesome guy. :)

    January 7, 2011 1:52 pm
  • 39
    Patricia said:

    I don’t get to visit here very often, but I am so happy for you! So much new and good. I am just trying to figure out what to do after deciding ten years of accounting is enough… it’s exciting and scary and I will read your post many times to boost my courage.

    January 7, 2011 5:32 pm
  • 40
    Sara said:

    I visit your website all the time but rarely post. Thanks for sharing your hopes and fears! I hope this leap you are making makes you happy and successful! Congratulations to you and Andrew!

    January 8, 2011 9:12 am
  • 41
    Kristin said:

    I just want to say congratulations!

    I did the same exact thing just a month ago, swapping my job as an astrophysicist for a life of butter and sugar. Even though those “what am I doing with my life?!” moments might still be sneaking up on you, this is your moment. Embrace it! Get excited!

    I know I’m excited for you. Everything will work out just fine, you’ll see. :)

    January 8, 2011 11:31 am
  • 42
    Marie M.C. said:

    Love Rutabaga. My ex-mother-in-law, who was Irish, taught me to boil carrots and rutabagas together — I use more carrots than rutabagas — so the final mash is a pretty orange. Drain, then mash up “with as much butter as your conscience allows.” What a wonderful admonition! I add salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. Nom, nom. Of course, caramelized onions make everything taste better.

    January 8, 2011 9:36 pm
  • 43
    Nina said:

    Oh and I missed your announcement! It’s so logical and I expected it for quite some time, that I’m not even surprised! Major Congratulations!!!

    January 8, 2011 10:50 pm
  • 44
    Halei said:

    First off, congratulations on both announcements. As someone who lives with her boyfriend, it is something that is so wonderful that its hard to explain for those who haven’t lived with their loved one before. Being part of a team and having your best friend to come home to everyday is amazing.

    Secondly, I wanted to say thank you. This post is an inspiration. I have not been working for nearly two months and your post has inspired me to think about what I REALLY want, not just what I need to do. My passions are food and politics. I was lucky enough to begin working in politics this last year. How I merge the two into my best, ideal life? I’m not sure. But starting today it’s something I will think about and talk about with those around me. Thank you for going after your dream. It inspires me to go after mine- whatever that may be.

    January 10, 2011 11:22 pm
  • 45

    Congrats! And welcome! Spending all day cooking and writing is pretty much the best. And to do it in Brooklyn is the cherry on top. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel on days you don’t even have to go into Manhattan. Can’t wait to see what comes next for you! -Cara

    January 11, 2011 4:29 pm
  • 46

    […] Rutabaga Mash – Have you ever eaten a rutabaga? I haven’t, though I’ve stopped to look at them in the store many times. I’ve just never known what to do with it if I purchased one. But, thankfully, I found this recipe and now I think I might give it a try! […]

    January 15, 2011 11:09 am
  • 47

    catching up on blog reading after a few months of being swamped at work – CONGRATS on all of your news. I could probably copy much of your post about food being your passion over finance, replacing law with finance, and it would be my story :) So kudos on being brave enough to take the leap. Can’t wait to hear about all of the great things to come.

    January 17, 2011 10:24 am
  • 48
    Gina said:

    Hi sweetie,
    I’m late to catching up on your blog– I’m so bad about this practice!
    But, I’m delighted for you! And I’m excited to watch your newest adventure unfold.
    You are an inspiration and a treasure!

    (Now, tell this single girl, where did you find such a great and amazing companion for the journey?? Cheers to you both! And happy unpacking!!)

    Blessings and Love,

    January 21, 2011 3:34 pm
  • 49
    Radish said:

    Gina – can you believe it, we went to Hebrew School together and then middle school for 2 yrs where I nursed a terrible crush on him! :) And thank you for such lovely, kind words!!

    January 21, 2011 3:59 pm
  • 50

    hi there, i’m finally making this mash and am just wondering if you have any tips for cutting the rutabaga. it’s quite hard and using up a lot of muscle power :)

    February 12, 2011 4:29 pm
  • 51
    Radish said:

    Nithya – my best advice, use a very sturdy knife and some elbow grease :) Those guys are hard to cut – so be careful!

    February 12, 2011 4:58 pm

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