November 9, 2010

Turnips for Supper

Photograph: Wataru Yanagida/Getty
Okay, I know what you're thinking.  This is not only a really boring, but quite possibly icky-tasting idea.  This is one of those meals that I love having for dinner, but that E (and probably a lot of other people) considers just a side.  I am not the biggest turnip fan, but I think adding a little garlic and crunchy pecans into the mix fixes what can sometimes be a kind of watery, why-isn't-this-as-tasty-as-other-root-vegetables kind of dish.  By the way, I'd love an alternative method for cooking turnips.  I have no idea what else to do with them, so if you have ideas, please share!

We got these gorgeous turnips from our CSA, and they had bright green tops that begged to be used. I loved the idea of being able to make both a starchy and a green dish from one veg.  (This was also attempted with carrots in the spring- I swore the tops were edible and sauteed them up with garlic and onions. E was pretty sure the texture was just too tough, and turns out he was right.  He watched smugly as I tried to gnaw my way through a mound of carrot greens that- while tasting pretty good- just didn't want to be chewed.) I don't remember the variety of turnip, but they were small and completely white. I'm not sure how the purple tops or bigger turnips would work in this recipe, but don't be afraid to try.  If your greens aren't looking so hot, just use a bag of greens from the store.  Or use spinach, kale or chard and cut down the cooking time by half.  

2 bunches of turnips* (young, with tender greens)
1/2 onion
1 clove garlic
olive oil
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and crushed or chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
3 pieces bacon
2 cups water
splash red wine vinegar

Heat oven to 350. Chop the greens from the turnips, rinse, and set aside.  Chop the turnips into cubes, toss with olive oil, onion, and garlic.  Mix the crushed pecans and breadcrumbs, then toss with turnip mixture.  Season with a couple pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Lay out on a baking sheet and put in oven for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender.  Then turn heat up for another 5 minutes if the vegetables need browning. 
While turnips are cooking, cut bacon into cubes and add to a pan at high heat.  When bacon is rendered, add water and turnips greens.  Season with salt and pepper, and a few red pepper flakes, if desired.  Turn the heat down to medium, cook for about 20-30 minutes, with the lid on, until greens are no longer vibrant green (isn't that the downside to cooking greens, they get so ugly!) and have become tender**.  Then turn the heat up and remove the lid to allow the water to cook off.  Add a splash of vinegar right before serving. 
You now have two complete side dishes from one vegetable!  Or, if you're me, you have a complete dinner for 1 :)

** I like my greens a little underdone (with some texture to them), so I taste them along the way.  Even though these were fairly tender greens, they really did need a longer cooking time so I'm glad I tested as I went.