It’s been the summer of oven-free cooking.

I’ll admit that it hasn’t been completely oven-free. There was that day in early summer when I decided to make shallot confit. Nearly set my kitchen ablaze when the olive oil heated, expanded, and flowed onto the oven floor. Which isn’t such a problem unless you panic and reach for a wad of paper towels to mop up the mess. An act that my husband described as “not my best moment”. (Hint, hot oil + paper + blistering coils = the kind of gentle flames that require the front yard testing of a 10-year-old fire extinguisher.)

There might have been a roasted chicken or two, I remember a baked blueberry oatmeal, a sheet pan of salty olive oil granola. But otherwise it’s been magically quiet on the oven frontier. I’m a griller these days, a smoker to be exact. And let’s not confuse that last sentence…a smoker of edible things, not the inhalable variety.

Smoking builds on my favorite style of summer cooking – easy, minimal ingredients, and very little prep time. It lets me enjoy everything that our short but sweet summer season has to offer. Paddleboarding on the lake, beach trips with the kids, hiking with my pup Happy in the woods. Which is most fun when she’s not chasing bears and my itty bitty pepper spray keychain poses no threat of actual use.

It’s the kind of food that I love to pair with equally easy sides – vegetables fresh from my CSA, simply prepared, lightly cooked.

In my last post I mentioned that I’d be taking on fewer but more meaningful projects so I’m happy this week to showcase Taylor Farms, a California-based grower of produce whose focus is on sustainability and food safety. They offer a range of easy breezy products from pre-made salad kits to fresh organic bagged greens and vegetables.

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I’m on a one-woman mission to save the rutabaga.

Which, according to my research today, is also called a “Swede” in Europe. I was in the midst of making a Scotch broth soup with my leftover holiday lamb and Jamie Oliver advised that I should chop up a Swede and throw it into the pot along with my vegetables.

Perhaps a soup for Jeffrey Dahmer, but I vow to keep my soups human-free. Let’s refer to rutabaga using its North American lingo. And to complicate things with one more rule, let’s avoid the common Southern pronunciation “ruda-beggers” which is even more worrisome than “Swede”.

If you’re A) from Europe or B) from the South and would like return the linguistic praise, feel free. I’m Canadian and come pre-packaged with a hot mess of language issues. I call the garbage disposal a “garberator”, pronounce basil with a soft “a” and if you steal my two-four, there might be a kerfuffle, but I can be easily repaid in peameal bacon. If it dribbles I’ll just wipe my face with a serviette.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk soup.

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You may recall that I introduced rutabaga to my kids as part of our mystery food challenge. One of the interesting observations was that rutabaga smells and tastes a little like broccoli. Lauren mentioned it first, and I guffawed but then brought the object right under my nose, and sure enough, the essence of broccoli itself.

I had visited the farmer’s market last weekend and bought two more rutabagas. Broccoli is a favorite in our house, making rutabagas appealing by proxy. They’re easy to prep- just peel off the skin and dice them for a stove-top simmer or a long, slow roast.

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rutabaga_FeedMeDearlyI don’t buy rutabaga often…wait, let me flip through my mental files….I don’t think I’ve ever bought it. Doesn’t the name imply the over-boiled vegetables that your Scottish grandmother might have forced you to eat as a child? The funny thing that we discovered about rutabaga is that it does in fact smell (and taste) a little like broccoli. And as I’ve found out over the last few days, it makes for the best mashers (add a little brown butter)…which leads to the best Shepherd’s pie. Which, if you ignore the vast amounts of butter and cream required to get you to the finish line, feels a little healthier than your standard white spuds. So for what it’s worth, I recommend giving rutabaga a try. If only to brag to your friends that your kids were eating it the night before.

ME: OK, hold on. Wait. This is the mystery food! What is this called?

LAUREN: Squash?

EMMA: CHEESE!

ME: It looks like cheese, doesn’t it?

LAUREN: Yellow squash?  

ME: Yeah, it looks exactly like yellow squash, but it’snot.

LAUREN: Yellow melon?!

ME: Nope. What do you think it is, Sam?

SAM: Nothing.

ME: It’s not nothing. Do you want to smell it first? Who wants to smell it?

LAUREN: Smells like broccoli.
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