So, for the duration of the Massachusetts growing season, I’m thinking about doing one post every week or so about cooking with some of the less common of the vegetables we receive in our CSA. I’m thinking about calling it: “What the f$*# do I do with…?”
It seemed like such a great idea. Actually maybe it still is a great idea, but my confidence in it is somewhat shaken.
Why? Because, in our very first share this year, which I picked up last Thursday (in an impressively dramatic thunderstorm – quarter-sized hail anyone?) the first challenge I was confronted with was one I don’t think I can actually surmount. Turnips.
I love vegetables. Love them. A lot. There are very, very few vegetables I can think of that I don’t really like. The sum total that I can think of off the top of my head are: okra and turnips.
I keep trying to like turnips though. I try really hard.
Right now, I’m back in Minnesota for the week, visiting my parents, and I was just discussing turnips with my dad. ”I don’t know if I’ve ever had a turnip. Haven’t they through the years been associated with poor people?” He asked. ”Yeah,” I replied, “in general, I think so.”
“It seems like they have an image problem,” he mused. ’More like a taste problem,’ I thought. Turnips taste of the earth, dark, loamy, craggy. I often like earthy things, but turnips have a bitterness to them that I just can’t quite learn to like. It always makes me feel like maybe they were grown in earth that was mistreated, warred over, maybe cried upon. I don’t know.
“You seem to like roasted vegetables,” my dad pointed out. ”Have you tried that?” ”Yes. I didn’t like them.”
“How about dousing them with a bunch of butter and cream?” ”Like turnips au gratin? I’ve tried that and I didn’t like it either!” It may be a hopeless cause.
If there is a turnip out there that I have a hope of liking, it is the hakurei turnip. These turnips are ready to come out of the ground early in the season, right around the same time as radishes. And, they are lovely, white orbs that taper to a delicate point. Their texture is creamy, almost buttery when raw, and I know quite a crowd of people who love to eat them that way, with maybe just a bit of dip or a sprinkling of sea salt.
Both raw and cooked, their bite is much mellower, their taste sweeter, than your late season, hardy storage turnips. They’re like the veal to regular turnip’s beef. These are what showed up in our first CSA share of the year. In past years, I’ve always tried a couple and then pawned the rest off on friends who like them (and there are many that flat out adore them, so if you like turnips, rest assured, I am not judging you. I judge only myself.). This year, though, I was determined to give them a fresh chance. I opened my mind, set aside my preconceptions, and decided to turn them into a velvety puree, laced with a hefty dose of garlic.
The turnips simmered along with the garlic in a bath of milk until everything was soft and the flavors had mingled. I whirred them with my handheld blender until they collapsed together into a gorgeously soft pile of mush, a la nursery school snack. I sprinkled it with a tiny bit of a tarragon, for a cool licorice bite.
Joel assures me it was really good, but to me, it tasted like turnips. I liked the garlic. But, I still don’t really like turnips.
But, I won’t give up hope. Next up, I’ll probably try bacon. Or pickling them. Because we know how I feel about pickled things these days. Perhaps that will work. But, in the meantime, how do you feel about turnips?
Garlicky Hakurei Turnip Puree (serves 4)
- 6-7 hakurei turnips, washed and cut into 1 inch chunks
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled, and smashed with the side of a knife
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- a handful of chopped fresh herbs, whatever type(s) suits your fancy, for garnish
- Combine the turnips, potato, garlic cloves, and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then turn down to low and simmer, half-covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the turnips and potato are tender when pricked with a fork. Stir fairly frequently to keep the pot from bubbling over.
- Remove from the heat and blend the turnips, potato, garlic, and milk together until smooth, either using a handheld blender or in a standing blender (if using a standing blender, you’ll probably want to do the pureeing in two batches). If the mixture seems too thick, add a little additional milk. (If you want a soup, you can add a bit of warm stock until you get the consistency you want.)
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve.