What is one to do when the turnip section of the garden gets uppity and decides to challenge one’s current turnip-related repertoire? Here are a few ideas beginning with a gratin from the school of, when in doubt, smother with mornay sauce and bake. This one contains potatoes, turnips, and whichever bits of cheese I found in the fridge, and it was as decadent as it appears. Recently I have been making cashew milk and using it to bake in lieu of cow’s milk. I don’t typically keep cow’s milk on hand, but I do have a bag of raw cashews in the freezer. As a bonus, the final product retains a lovely, smooth creaminess without that odd coagulation that can happen with cow’s milk, and it doesn’t weigh as heavily on the stomach. I also put mustard, nutmeg, and pepper flakes in the sauce.
Next up is a tried and true recipe that I make several times every cold season, Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ultimate Winter Couscous. The recipe calls for a specific suite of cold season vegetables, but you can also mix and match depending on what you happen to have on hand. This one included carrots and one or two turnips along with sweet potato, and it was delicious. The “couscous” is adlay millet, AKA Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi), cooked in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes in stock with a bit of saffron. I have not yet found a gluten free couscous, but whole grains work perfectly well as a substitute and are probably more healthful, too. You could also use quinoa or millet and they would work beautifully. And, yes, I realize there are a lot of ingredients here. I also, however, know that I can’t be the only cook who looks at a recipe like this one and experiences a moment of personal triumph after having spent so much time and effort curating a well-stocked spice cabinet and pantry. Give it a try.
Moving from turnip roots to greens, I’ll start with my Granny’s tip for washing them. Step one: Do a quick, initial rinse to remove large debris. Step two: Place the leaves in a sink or basin full of water, making sure they can move freely. Step three: Walk away. As they soak, I’d go at least five minutes, but you probably don’t need twenty, the leaves will release any soil or fragments of whatever decided to cling to them in the garden, and it will all gently sink to the bottom as the leaves float. Lift the clean leaves out of the water from the top, doing your best not to agitate the stuff off the bottom of the sink, then rinse them one last time if they need it. Genius.
Turnip greens can be chopped up and put into just about anything whether the “recipe” calls for them or not. Here, I’ve stirred a few leaves that were left over in the vegetable bin into a roasted butternut squash risotto. Turnip greens are not like collards and kale that must be cooked for longer periods of time, so I added the greens in the last couple of minutes right before the cheese and a squeeze of lemon. Pepitas add a little texture. This also works really nicely with cheese grits.
I will now make yet another pitch for greens-in-general as a versatile and fabulous side dish. Cooking Italian? Season with olive oil and red pepper flakes. Chinese? Add soy sauce and/or a bit of black vinegar, or go with ginger and garlic. Korean? Cook in sesame oil and top with sesame seeds. Indian? Add tomato, onion, and ginger, or you can go main dish and make a gorgeous saag paneer. You can also use whatever sauce you happen to be serving that night, as I did below with bang bang soy chicken, or just pile them on the plate after cooking with a bit of salt and pepper. And then there’s always Tabasco… See? All those greens are starting to grow on you after all. Until next time. Enjoy!