Shopping from your garden and cooking a meal from produce that you have raised from the ground is a heady experience in the heat of the summer. But imagine how much headier it is to walk out into your bleak and withered garden on a day when it is only 28 degrees in the brightest noon-day sun and pulling your dinner from the ground.
With root crops like carrots, turnips, beets, rutabagas and parsnips, it’s possible. They can all be left in the ground, and harvested as needed. Most experts will tell you not to leave them in after the ground freezes, so before a week like this one where temperatures stay below freezing for days, it’s probably time to bring in the turnips and rutabagas.
Turnips shouldn’t be allowed to get too big. Over three inches in diameter, and they’re likely to be pithy and lose flavor. But if you were lucky enough to hit the sweet spot and planted them late enough that they didn’t get too big before the weather turned cold, but early enough to produce edible-sized turnips, you can pull food out of the ground well into the winter.
If you don’t care for turnips because of the sharp flavor they can sometimes have, try roasting them. It mellows out the flavor and concentrates the texture. If you’re pulling your turnips fresh from the ground, you’ll have the greens as well. Recipes follow that use both turnip root and greens. Of course, if you’re buying turnips from the store with no greens attached, kale is a nice substitute.
Another way to break into turnips gently if they’re not a favorite is to mix them with potatoes. A recipe follows for skillet turnips and potatoes with bacon. Bacon makes everything better.
This recipe is really more of a a method. Feel free to change the amount to suit your needs. Try adding herbs (rosemary is particularly nice with the spicy bite of turnips and rosemary may well have also survived the bitter cold in your garden), or combine the turnips with other root vegetables that may be lurking about in your garden. You’ll find some tasty variations at the end.
2 pounds turnips
1 tbsp. olive oil
Fine or coarse sea salt
Preheat an oven to 400°F. While the oven heats, trim and peel the turnips. Tender baby turnips can be simply scrubbed instead of peeled, but even their peel will be a bit more fibrous than the tender insides. Leave baby turnips whole; cut larger turnips into large-ish bite-size pieces. Put the prepared turnips in a baking pan or on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with the olive oil. Use your hands or two large spoons to toss the turnips around a bit to coat them thoroughly with the oil. Sprinkle them with salt.
Roast the turnips until they’re tender and browned; start checking on them after about 30 minutes. Depending on the size and age of the turnips, it may take them up to an hour or more to get completely tender. Serve roasted turnips hot, warm, or at room temperature as a side dish or as part of a roasted vegetable platter. They’re tasty all on their own but can certainly benefit from a bit of extra love.
After 20 minutes, add a few grinds of coarsely ground black pepper over the turnips.
When you take them out of the oven, toss the turnips with a tablespoon or two of minced herbs such as parsley, thyme, and/or rosemary.
Drizzle the roasted turnips with romesco sauce or homemade pesto when you serve them.
When the turnips are almost done, add about 1 tablespoon of butter, toss to melt the butter and coat the turnips, then sprinkle them with about 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (a mix of warm spices common in Indian cuisine), and toss again to coat them evenly. Roast a final 5 to 10 minutes.
If you’re cooking a chicken or a pork roast, simply add the turnips to the pan with it to roast alongside – the juices from the roast will flavor the turnips beautifully.
Mix things up by roasting other root vegetables – potatoes, parsnips, and rutabagas are all goods choices. The mix will roast up best is you take the time to cut the vegetables into similarly sized pieces. Note: Beets are tasty but know that they will stain the turnips pink when they touch.
Skillet Turnips and Potatoes with Bacon
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces thick-cut bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1 1/2 pounds turnips, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/2 pounds white-skinned potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
Mix 1/4 cup water, vinegar, and sugar in small bowl. Combine oil and bacon in heavy large skillet; sauté over medium-high heat until fat is rendered, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add turnips and potatoes; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sea salt and toss 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until vegetables are almost tender, stirring and turning vegetables occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Push vegetables to 1 side of skillet. Pour vinegar mixture into cleared space. Toss vegetables with vinegar mixture. Spread vegetables in even layer in skillet; cook until golden and slightly crisp on bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn vegetables over; spread in even layer and cook until browned and slightly crisp on bottom, about 4 minutes. Continue to turn, spread, and cook vegetables until tender, golden, and crisp around edges, 7 to 8 minutes longer. Season with more sea salt and black pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with parsley.
Sautéed Turnips and Greens
Cook peeled and cut-up turnips and sliced garlic in olive oil in a large skillet until tender. Add the turnip greens and cook until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Roasted Turnips With Ginger
Peel and cut turnips into wedges. Toss with sliced fresh ginger, canola oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with honey and roast at 400° F. until tender.
Mashed Turnips With Crispy Bacon
Simmer peeled and cut-up turnips in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and mash with butter, salt, and pepper. Fold in crumbled cooked bacon and chopped chives; top with shaved Parmesan.
Creamy Leek and Turnip Soup
Cook thinly sliced leeks in butter in a large saucepan until soft. Add peeled and cut-up turnips and enough chicken broth to cover. Simmer until very tender. Puree until smooth, adding water or broth as necessary to adjust the consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
Turnip and Kale Gratin
If you come across turnips with good-looking greens still attached, use in place of the kale.
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups heavy cream
½ tsp. dried thyme
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 bunches Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
4 medium turnips (about 1¾ pounds total), trimmed, peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
4 ounces Fontina cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
1 ounce Parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup)
8 ounces day-old white country-style bread, cut into ½-inch pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring garlic, cream, and thyme to a bare simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and let cream simmer 30 minutes. Let cool. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-low. Add onions, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding a splash or two of water if onions begin to stick to pan, until caramelized and amber colored, 45–60 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
Wipe out skillet. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. butter in same skillet. Working in batches, add kale, tossing and letting it wilt slightly before adding more; season with salt. Cook until kale is wilted and tender, 5–8 minutes; transfer to bowl with onions. While kale is cooking, cook turnips in a large pot of boiling well-salted water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes; drain. Transfer to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Drain; pat dry. Transfer to bowl with onions.
Preheat oven to 375°. Whisk eggs, Fontina cheese, Parmesan, and cooled cream mixture in a large bowl to combine. Add onion mixture and bread; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 13×9” baking dish and press down on mixture with your hands to form a tight, even layer. Bake gratin, uncovered, until well browned, 40–50 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Gratin can be assembled 12 hours ahead. Cover and chill.
Mashed Root Vegetables with Bacon Vinaigrette
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. yellow mustard seeds
4–5 pounds mixed root vegetables (such as turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, celery root and rutabagas), peeled, cut into 1” cubes
½ pound thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1 large white onion, diced
1 tbsp. (packed) dark brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Bring vinegar, mustard seeds, and ¼ cup water to a simmer in a small pot; cook until seeds are plump, 20–25 minutes. Drain; set aside seeds and cooking liquid separately. Place a steamer basket inside a large pot. Add water to a depth of 1”. Bring to a boil. Add root vegetables to steamer basket. Cover and cook, adding water by ½-cupfuls if needed to maintain level of water in pot, until vegetables are very tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, place bacon in a large skillet; set over medium-low heat and cook until bacon softens and fat begins to render, about 4 minutes. Add onion; increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and bacon are browned and crisp, about 10 minutes.
Add reserved mustard seeds to bacon mixture and cook until seeds begin to pop, about 1 minute. Turn off heat and stir in brown sugar and reserved mustard seed cooking liquid. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper. Drain vegetables and return to pot. Using a fork or potato masher, coarsely mash. Stir in vinaigrette; season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 13x9x2” baking dish; cover with foil.
DO AHEAD: Vegetable mash can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Rewarm vegetable mash, covered, in a 350° oven until just warmed through, 45–55 minutes. Alternatively, place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until warmed through (time will vary). Stir parsley into mash. Transfer to a bowl; serve warm or at room temperature.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.