Thursday, December 17, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Storage Turnips

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz
Scarlet Turnips in the field
Let’s face it—“exciting” isn’t an adjective that people typically use when they talk about turnips. Quite honestly, the way in which turnips are most often prepared—boiled and mashed—leaves a bit to be desired.  Like Brussels sprouts, overcooking them leaves you with a bitter, off-putting flavor. Recognizing this for the tragedy it is, we at Harmony Valley Farm want to set you and your turnips up for success during this winter season.

Turnips are a highly versatile culinary ingredient and an important part of a Midwestern seasonal diet. Storage turnips are hearty vegetables that are in it for the long haul. Place them in a plastic bag and they’ll hang out in your refrigerator for months on end…thus providing sustenance through the long winter months.  Purple top turnips are the traditional variety of turnips most people are familiar with. They have a distinct turnip flavor with crisp white flesh.  In the last vegetable box you received golden turnips.  These are a bit milder in flavor with gold skin and flesh.  This week we’re delivering our favorite storage turnip, sweet scarlet turnips.  They have a magenta-colored skin with white flesh often flecked with pink.  They are the mildest in turnip flavor and the sweetest.  The flavor of all storage turnips becomes milder, balanced and sweet when they are harvested later in the fall when the temperatures are colder and we’ve had some frost.  If you’ve had early harvested turnips….we can’t blame you for taking a pass on them, but please don’t write them off based on that one experience.

Scarlet & Purple Top Turnips
Turnips can be used in a variety of ways.  They can be included with a mix of root vegetables to make a delicious roasted vegetable medley or root mash.  Sweet scarlet turnips are a beautiful addition to a winter stir-fry or are mild enough to be eaten raw with a simple dip.  Turnips can also be added to soups, stews and winter chowder.  Quite honestly, one of our favorite ways to eat them is often simply sautéed with butter.  If you want to take them a little further, you can also pickle them and ferment them making delicious and interesting condiments for winter fare.  We’ve included a few enticing recipes in this week’s newsletter, but if you’re searching for even more inspiration, check out TheKitchn’s Seasonal Cooking series on “Interesting Things to do with Turnips.”

You may not believe me when I tell you this, but turnips rival kale and Swiss chard in terms of the amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they offer the eater. So, abandon the boil and mash mentality and start getting better acquainted with your turnips this winter!

Roasted Turnip Ghanoush

Yield:  4 cups
2 lb. turnips
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup water
½ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
⅓ cup roasted tahini
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced garlic
Smoked paprika, 2-3 pinches*
2 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pita bread, baked pita chips or crudités for serving
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving*

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F.  Place the unpeeled turnips on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until very soft, 30 to 45 minutes. Transfer them to a heatproof bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let cool. The steam will make them easier to peel.
  2. While the turnips are roasting, in a small saucepan, combine the dates and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the dates have softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and process until pureed. Set aside to cool. Measure ⅓ cup puree to use for the recipe. (Cover and refrigerate the remaining puree for another use. It will keep for up to 1 month.)
  3. When the turnips are cool enough to handle, peel them and transfer to a food processor. Add the yogurt, date puree, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, a few pinches of paprika, salt and pepper and process until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil & the parsley. Serve immediately with pita bread, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (The dip can be prepared up to 1 day in advance, covered and refrigerated.)

Recipe borrowed from Roots by Diane Morgan.  The ingredients marked with an * were Andrea’s adaptations to the original recipe.  This recipe & cookbook were recommended by some longtime CSA members.  I was intrigued by the idea of using turnips to make a dip, and found this to be a quite tasty way to use a turnip!

Turnip and Carrot Kraut with Caraway

Yield:  2 ½ cups
1 lb. turnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 oz. carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 ½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp caraway seeds, toasted

  1. Using the coarse holes on a box grater or food processor fitted with the coarse shredding disk, grate the turnips and carrots. Transfer the grated vegetables to a large glass container with straight sides, such as a 1 qt. glass measuring cup. Add the salt and toasted caraway seeds and toss to combine thoroughly. Place a glass or china plate on top of the mixture and press down firmly. Place a weight, such as a closed container filled with water, on top of the plate and press down to squeeze out the moisture that is released by the vegetables. Cover the container with a clean kitchen towel and place in a cool, dark place to ferment for 1 week.
  2. Every day, press down on the plate to make sure the vegetables are submerged. The salt will continue to draw out moisture from the vegetables during fermentation, and pressing on the plate helps to extract the brine. The vegetables must be completely submerged for fermentation to occur and to avoid mold from developing on the surface. If mold does form, skim it off and discard it. (Don’t worry, the kraut is still safe to eat!)
  3. After 1 week, the kraut will be tangy and ready to eat. If left to ferment for 2 weeks or more, it will continue to develop complex flavor. When you think the kraut has fermented long enough, you can store it in a covered container in the refrigerator and enjoy it for several weeks.

Recipe borrowed from Roots by Diane Morgan.

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