Sunday, March 4, 2012

Slovenian Dinner Week 5: Caraway Cheese Tart + Rutabagas

Caraway cheese tart, with mashed rutabagas and dandelion greens salad


Mashed Rutabagas
Salad with Dandelion Greens, Romaine and Tomatoes

It was the last day in January, the first month of my new Slovenian roots project. I had actually produced four weekly meals, all of them from my vintage cookbooks.

Since this was a bonus month with five Tuesdays, I figured it might be okay to take a little break and make a dinner that was lighter on the meat and maybe not even strictly ethnic, as long as I found the recipes in my Slovenian cookbook collection.

I'd had my eye on one recipe for awhile: Caraway Cheese Wedges, from Woman's Glory: The Kitchen. It  looked so easy.  Eggs, cheese, sour cream, a little bacon, mixed and then baked together in a pie shell.  Just a variation on quiche, I figured. Probably one of those "modern" American dishes the Slovenian Women's Union decided to include in their mid-1950's cookbook.  A surprising choice, in some ways, since it predated the American quiche craze by at least ten years.

Making such a familiar American entree did feel close to cheating.  I would make up for it with the side dishes.   My mother had told me stories of her immigrant father picking dandelion greens for salad.  I browsed my cookbooks for ideas about a hot vegetable dish and discovered a couple of unusual choices: kohlrabi and rutabaga, otherwise known as yellow turnips.

Rutabagas and kohlrabi?  I had never cooked with either one and probably couldn't have picked them out of a crowd. The big produce market around the corner offered an education in knobby root vegetables. Potatoes of all shapes and sizes, beets of many hues, turnips. Then, the less familiar ones: parsnips, kohlrabi and rutabaga.  I wandered the aisles like a tourist, studying the labels and admiring the dazzling displays of fruits and vegetables.  I felt that I was seeing it all with new eyes--and appreciating it with all my senses.

I finally settled on a small bunch of rutabagas for tonight and a few kohlrabi for the next day, along with some organic dandelion greens for the salad.

There was more than met the eye to that recipe for Caraway Cheese Wedges!  I figured the tart would turn out denser than a conventional quiche.  The filling called for very little liquid, relative to the proportions of cheese and egg.  And my adaptation of the recipe, which I planned to double,  pushed it even farther in that direction.  My only substitution was to replace the liquid, sour cream, with nonfat Greek yogurt, which is basically pure protein.  And I ended up using one fewer egg than I should have.  (Along with doubling the recipe, I was trying to adjust for using extra-large size eggs.)

Despite the extra denseness, it turned out to be a delicious savory tart.  The caraway seasoning, along with the bacon and gruyere cheese, gave it a decided Central European flair.  In the recipe to follow, I've added that extra egg back in.  But if you care to leave it out, go right ahead.  The tart will be extra-dense and chewy.

The rutabagas were good, too.  A nice, light, slightly sweet alternative to mashed potatoes.  I deputized my husband, who followed the basic instructions in Woman's Glory.  Pare and cut into cubes.  Cook in boiling salted water (he tossed in a little onion, too) for twenty minutes or until tender.  Season with salt, pepper, parsley, and butter.   Mash and serve.

It was a tasty and successful end to my first month as a born-again Slovenian American cook.  To my surprise,  I still hadn't run out of recipes to try!

rutabaga and onions, boiled and unmashed

Mashed Rutabagas

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