Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cooking with Turnips

I love turnips.

I have a boarder-line unhealthy obsession with this lovely white orb. It's so well suited for casseroles, steaming, sauteing, stews, and quite frankly, I love it enough that I'm happy to eat it raw with hummus.

I love, love, love a good turnip.  And I want you to love, love, love turnips too. (Smile.) So please read on.

Here's the background on this little lovely.

Turnips are a member of the Brassica family, and while it is traditionally a food for human consumption it's also grown for animal fodder. It's documented that human beings have been eating turnips since Greek and Roman times, possibly since the prehistoric era. Turnip is a cool-weather crop perfect for northern climates for for growing well into the fall season.

Tast-wise, early spring turnips are the sweetest (I'm very serious when I say that sauted early turnip takes on a carmelized, candy-sweet flavor). That aside, larger turnips tend to have a stronger flavor, while smaller ones remain tender and sweeter. (Read: if you're eating it raw, go small.)

To prepare a turnip you first must wash it with a vegetable brush under running water, in just the same way that you must do to prepare potatoes. To cook the root (which is the white or white/purple part at the bottom), you must cut off the greens (save to saute- they're delicious, see below), then peel and cut the turnip root. Some folks don't peel them, but I always do because the difference in taste is significant to me. I suggest you try it both ways and stick to your prefered method. If you do choose to peel them you can do that either with a knife or vegetable peeler.

Cut off greens (and awkward middle part, as shown):
 Peel and slice turnip.

 Add to a pan with melted butter.
 Place sliced turnip into pan for a few minutes, turning half way through cooking time. You want the turnips to have the same consistency as cooked potatoes when they are done.

 When fork-tender and sweet to taste, pull them from the pan and serve hot. (Picure below includes finished sauted turnip.)

Raw turnip is nice when you grate it to use as a salad topper or in coleslaw, or sliced thinly into sticks and served with a vegetable dip.

Turnips are amazingly versatile, just like rutabega or potato. You can successfully pair turnips with traditionally sweet foods, or at least foods that go well with sweets, such as apples, ham, ginger, cinnamon, carrots, pumpkin, and butter. Or you can opt to prepare turnip with savory foods, like parsnips, mushrooms, chives, potatoes, or Parmesan.

Regardless of how you intend to prepare it, turnip can have a bitter flavor if its undercooked, so be sure its completely done. (If you taste-test a boiling turnip and it's bitter you can replace the water and continue boiling to sweeten the flavor. You can also put in one peeled potato to combat biterness.)

Turnips can be frozen easily, but should be blanched first. That means you should follow the instructions above to prepare the turnip (wash and peel) and cut into one-inch cubes. Place them in boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes to kill the enzymes which might cause the vegetable to rot, but not yet cooking it. Then place it in a cold water bath for a couple minutes to stop the cooking process immediately. Dry well and store in a vacuum bag or freezer safe bag for up to nine months.

Now for the greens! I really love these sauteed in a little butter with a sprinkle of salt. Taste for taste they are similar to mustard greens or kale and can be subdtituted in many recupes for these similar greens. They pack a high lutein punch, and include healthy doses of vitamins A, C and K, plus calium and folate.

To prepare turnip greens you must cut the greens (stems) from the root:

 Chop the greens into prefered sizes:
 Put into a hot pan with a tablespoon or so of butter:
 Stir so they don't burn:
 Give the discarded parts to the chickens.... what? you still don't have chickens?? Sheesh. :)
 Stir a bit more and add a dash of salt:
 Remove from heat and serve warm:

 My favorite ways to enjoy turnip:
*Raw, with dip
*Replace half of the cabbage in a coleslaw recipe raw, grated turnip
*Saute greens, as shown above
*Saute roots, as shown above
*Prepared au gratin, like this
*Using older turnips to make vegetable stock
*Roasted in large chuncks with carrots and parsnip, similar to this
*Coated in olive oil, salt and pepper on the grill
*Halving recipes calling for potatoes and mixing in the other half of turnips
*Stuffing a whole roasting chicken with turnips and onion

Plus, here are few I'd like to try with my turnips this year but haven't in the past:

Allrecipe offers this recipe for Clapshot, a traditional Scottish dish made from cooked carrots, turnips, and cream.

Epicurious offer this recipe for Panecetta and Seseame-coated Turnips, this recipe for Risotto with Turnips and Bacon, and

Serious Eats contributes this recipe for Turnip, Apple and Jerusalem Artichoke soup.



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