Celebrating Turnips (and a CONTEST!)

Here it is, the exact moment when my personal hobby and my day job decide to co-mingle. I have held strict personal policies about keeping these two parts of my life at a safe distance from one another for quite some time but it is no longer possible. Why, you ask? It is because delicious food, so true to its nature, brought them together. My entire life, food has been one of my very best friends. My Mother often recalls that as a child even, I would always inquire what we were going to eat for the next meal as we were in the middle of the current one. She is a great baker and self-taught cook and at an early age encouraged me to cook and gave me free reign of her kitchen. My childhood friend, Janet, and I would create extravagant experiments with the blender.

Quite possibly because of this early encouragement and exposure to food experimentation, I have always sought ways to combine delicious food with just about every activity in my life. This blog evolved out of an unyielding collection of my own food photographs, a desire to keep up with our recipe experiments, and lots of encouragement from my husband. My job at The Turnip Truck came about when we arrived in Nashville searching for the best available local and organic food while toting an art degree (and thus a job history consisting of food service!), nearly 25 years personal experience in natural food shopping, and an intense love of food. Now, I have been working here for over 5 years. I just so happened to already be experimenting with recipes for the under appreciated root vegetable, the TURNIP, when I was asked to write a blog for The Turnip Truck. It seemed to be more than just a coincidence so, here we are.
* Special Note- all ingredients for the following recipes were purchased at The Turnip Truck! I always use organic and local ingredients whenever possible. *

Turnips are a popular fall and winter cover crop in Tennessee. Of course, you can find the turnip’s green tops on just about every meat-n-three restaurant menu in Nashville but the roots have never been as common. I never ate turnips as a child. They have always been one of those vegetables I never really knew what to do with which presented me with a food challenge! It turns out that turnips are a very low calorie root vegetable and they are a very good source of anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber. And if you haven’t noticed, they are quite pretty. The young, small turnips can be eaten raw in salads, much like radishes. The older and bigger ones seem to be good replacements for (or cooked with) potatoes in most recipes. Here are a few recipes I came up with to celebrate my new food friend and the namesake of my current job, the turnip.

I started out my turnip recipe experimentation real simple and boiled a few in with some potatoes and mashed them all up with butter, milk, salt and pepper. They were good and created a slightly different texture than plain mashed potatoes but were really not that exciting. I decided to move on to some more interesting ideas.

I based this first foray into the wonderful world of turnips on an Italian-style recipe from Mario Batali. I loved the use of the poppy seeds.

Pan Roasted Turnips served here with sauteed kale and tomatoes.

Pan Roasted Turnips

2 pounds Turnips, cleaned and quartered
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Poppy Seeds
1 Tbsp Paprika
4 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
Season turnips with salt and pepper. In a large oven-proof saute pan, heat butter until starting to brown. Add turnips and toss to coat well. Add poppy seeds and saute until light golden brown, about 8 to 9 minutes. Add paprika and toss to coat. Add vinegar and cook until evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes, remove from heat and serve.

I came up with this vinaigrette that was nice with a raw root vegetable salad. I thinly sliced a carrot, a small turnip, and a red beet. I placed all in a bowl with finely chopped romaine leaves and mixed with the vinaigrette to form a spicy root vegetable salad.

Spicy Vinaigrette for Raw Root Vegetable Salad

1/4 cupExtra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Handful of Fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley
1 tsp Fennel Seeds
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 Shallot
1 clove Garlic
3-4 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Honey, or to taste
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

I blended all the ingredients together in a small food processor but if you do not have one, you can just chop all ingredients up finely and mix together well.

I often make Kale Chips and have seen recipes for carrot chips and other vegetables and since turnips are similar to potatoes, I thought Turnip Chips might be a good idea. Here’s how I did it…

Turnip Chips

Turnips, thinly sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Brown Rice Wine Vinegar
Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Place thinly sliced turnip rounds in a bowl. Toss with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of vinegar, salt & pepper. Spread out on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes and then flip chips over and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Remove from oven and let cool.

I thought it might be nice to add some apple in with turnips and potatoes to give it another layer. What goes well with potatoes and apples- CHEESE, of course! I added in a little bacon to this next concoction but you can easily leave that out for a vegetarian version. If you haven’t tried the uncured Cowboy Bacon from The Turnip Truck, I suggest you give it a try! It is delicious!

Turnip Gratin

3 strips uncured Cowboy Bacon
1 Red Onion, sliced in rings
3 Garlic Cloves, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp Butter
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 medium sized Turnips, washed well and sliced into thin rounds
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored, and cut into thin slices
1-2 Red Potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 Tbsp mix of fresh Thyme and Rosemary, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1½  cups Grated Cheese- blend of Sharp White Cheddar and Cave-Aged Gruyère
1 cup Milk (I used low-fat)

Cook the bacon in a skillet and then set aside on a paper towel to drain and cool. In the bacon grease, saute the red onion on medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the onion is soft, add the butter and garlic and stir. Cook another minute and then remove from heat. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish. Mix the sliced turnips, apples, and potatoes with the onion mixture. Crumble the bacon in and add the herbs and salt and pepper. Pour into greased baking dish. Mix the cheese in (I placed the cheese on top but I think mixing some in and then topping with the remainder is the way to go.) and then pour the milk over top. Bake for an hour, or until potatoes fork done.

I served the Turnip Gratin with some simple sauteed green beans with olive oil, balsamic, and toasted walnuts.

Now, about that CONTEST… All readers living in the Nashville area have a chance to win a $50 Turnip Truck gift card!

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me your thoughts on turnips and be sure to include a correct email address so I can get in touch with you if you win.

For up to two additional chances to win, do the following, leaving a separate comment here for each:
1. Like one or both of the Turnip Truck’s facebook pages- https://www.facebook.com/TheTurnipTruckNaturalMarket  https://www.facebook.com/TheTurnipTruckUrbanFare
2. Tweet the following: “I just entered to win a $50 gift card from @ https://twitter.com/#!/TurnipTruckWest , @https://twitter.com/#!/TurnipTruckEast , and https://ladysmokey.wordpress.com/ .”

The contest is open until noon Monday, January 30 and the winner will be selected randomly. Thanks and good luck!

The contest is now closed. The winner of the $50 TT gift card is Lacey! Congratulations!!! And everyone, thanks for all your suggestions and comments. Go Turnips!!!