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The Dansville Online
  • Button up your rutabaga — enjoy unexpected winter eating

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  • You don’t want to read another story about winter. But perhaps you’d like to eat a story about winter.
    My green grocer, Arthur Mann, tells me winter vegetables are the most ignored in his department. He blames their odd shapes and colors.
    “They look strange and like they are a challenge to cook, but really they aren’t,” he sayd. “Prices always are lower in winter as wholesalers are full. People are missing a lot by ignoring them.”
    Nancy Curran, a nutritionist and consultant, finds no other vegetables as beneficial as winter varieties.
    “These are the true storehouses of vitamins and minerals. USDA wisely recommends them over supplements,” she said. “They are readily available to our bodies, very low fat and loaded with fiber. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
    Curran said the vegetables provide the carbohydrate boost our bodies need to help fend off the cold. Their copious Vitamin C makes up for lack of sunlight.
    Winter-growing veggies spend a lot of time in the ground, slowly building an amazing sugar content while piling on the vitamins and minerals. The cold actually releases their flavors.
    Buy some winter veggies, and you’ll soon find plenty of uses. Many are excellent additions to all manner of stews. They will add interest and flavors to your most common of recipes. They are a good substitute for potatoes in recipes as they freeze without turning grainy.
    Other easy uses: Sautéed in butter, sliced or shredded for salads, pureed in soups, roasted with meats, steamed with pasta, escalloped in cream sauce and gratinéed in cheese sauce. The list is unending.
    BASIC WINTER SQUASH
    • 1 winter squash
    • 2 T brown sugar
    • 2 T butter
    • 1 T rum (optional)
    Slice the squash in half widthwise. Scrape out the seeds and membrane (save the seeds for the birds). Roast cut side down on a greased sheet at 350 F for 20 minutes. Turn upright and add brown sugar, butter and rum if desired. Return to oven and roast until flesh is tender, about 20 minutes. Serve in the shell.
    Serves 2.
    VEGGIE PASTA
    • 12 ounces pasta, cooked
    • 1 cup cauliflower florets, small
    • 1/2 cup leeks, cut in rounds
    • 1/2 cup Brussels sprouts, halved
    • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
    • 6 slices bacon, cooked, chopped
    Sauce:
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/3 cup sour cream
    • 1 t Dijon mustard
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
    Heat milk and whisk in sour cream. Add mustard and cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm, stir occasionally.
    Boil pasta for indicated time, adding vegetables for last 10 minutes. Drain and toss with sauce and cooked bacon.
    Serve immediately.
    Page 2 of 2 - Serves 4.
    SHRIMP STEW
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 1 celery rib, diced
    • 3 carrots, sliced
    • 1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded, cubed
    • 1 cup rutabaga, peeled and sliced
    • 1/2 cup parsnip, peeled and sliced
    • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
    • Chicken broth to cover, about 6 cups
    • 1 t Old Bay seasoning
    • 1 pound cooked shrimp
    • Dash of pepper sauce, optional
    Simmer vegetables covered in the broth until tender. Add more broth if needed. Add the Old Bay and shrimp and cook 3 minutes or so until the shrimp is warmed. Serve in bowls with crusty bread and apple butter.
    Serves 8.
    BEST UNDERUSED WINTER VEGGIES
    Red beets: Buy with greens attached for use like spinach; use beets in soups, simmered in their syrup, shredded and added to coleslaw.
    Belgian endive: Lettuce-like, may be stuffed with cream cheese. Heads are excellent braised in chicken broth.
    Cauliflower: Very versatile raw and cooked, tastes best when harvested in cold conditions. High in 15 important minerals and 10 vitamins, a powerhouse.
    Brussels sprouts: Mini cabbages, very sweet all winter, good for steaming, pickling and sautéing in butter.
    Escarole: A bitter chicory, the sweet flavor explodes when chopped and cooked in soup broth.
    Kale: One of the heartiest of winter cooking greens.
    Leeks: The smoothest onion flavor out there, harvested all winter when the soil permits.
    Rutabagas: Weird-looking but sweet and nutty flavor, serve boiled and mashed (with nutmeg) or in stews.
    Winter squash: Many types, most popular is acorn for its seed cavity that holds butter and maple syrup while roasting; excellent whole, mashed and in pies.
    Jim Hillibish is a columnist at The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Reach him at jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com.

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