I’m growing rutabagas this year.

The strange thing is, I have no recollection of planting them.

One day a couple of weeks ago, I was out in my garden and spied a nice row of greens. Upon further investigation, I discovered that said greens were attached to some very large roots. Rutabagas! Clearly I put the seeds in this spring (I even found the packet), but I’m completely serious…I have no recollection at all of that event.

I’ve never grown them before, but did a little research and learned that rutabagas can be left in the ground until well after a frost; in fact they become sweeter that way. So I resolved not to pick them all, but some of the ‘bagas were getting really huge, so I pulled those out and starting wondering what the heck was I going to do with them.

It was a really hot day out but I started thinking about soup…a super spicy one, served cold. I turned to Monica Bhide’s Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen for some inspiration, and found it on page 134.

Monica’s Butternut Squash Stew with Jaggery really spoke to me that day. One, because it was extremely healthy (there are lots of vegetables in it, as well as red lentils) and two, because it was the perfect opportunity to try out the jaggery I had recently purchased from Kalustyans.

Did I ever tell you about my visit to Kalustyans with Cathy Barrow (aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow)? She’s an incredible cook who I met online through food52: we met for the first time in person, and had a really great time in New York City, a few weeks ago. We lunched at The Spotted Pig for hours, we drooled over cameras and bought tiny tabletop tripods at Adorama, and did we ever do some shopping at Kalustyans.

So that’s where I finally found the elusive jaggery, a natural sweetener made from concentrated sugar cane juice that I’ve been wanting to try for some time.

Monica talks all about ways to use it in her book (she says it works in everything from lemonade to lentils) and apparently it’s very high in minerals, especially iron. It has a complex and very wonderful flavor, unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. While you can use brown sugar as a substitute, just know that they do not taste the same.

The squash stew is intended to be consumed on a cold winter’s day, but I had no problem chowing down on my version in August, topped with a big dollop of yogurt and lots of cilantro. I served it with Basmati rice…I think it would also be great over quinoa.

Recipe for Cold Curried Rutabaga Soup

adapted from Modern Spice by Monica Bhide
Makes about 6 servings

Ingredients:

*3 tablespoons ghee or organic coconut oil
*1 large onion, chopped
*3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
*one 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
*1 tablespoon curry powder (or Sambar powder)
*1 teaspoon red chile powder
*3-4 medium-large rutabagas, peeled and chopped (or use 1 medium butternut squash. or a combination of root vegetables such as parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and squash)
*1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
*1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
*1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
*1/4 tablespoon fine sea salt
*1/2 tablespoon jaggery or brown sugar
*1 cup red lentils, rinsed well
*2 cups vegetable stock/broth, preferably homemade
*2 cups water
*Minced fresh cilantro, for garnish

Directions:

1. In a large pot on the stove, heat the ghee or coconut oil. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and cook over medium heat until soft and fragrant, 6-8 minutes.

2. Add the curry powder and the red chile powder. Stir well and cook about 1-2 minutes more.

3. Add the rutabagas, sweet potato, and the peppers. Cook for 2-3 more minutes, then add the salt and the jaggery. Stir so everything is mixed well.

4. Add the lentil, the broth, and the water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about an hour, maybe a little more, until everything is tender and cooked through.

5. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then transfer to a suitable container and refrigerate until cold. You can puree the soup, if you like, or serve as is, topped with plain yogurt and minced cilantro.