Don’t overlook the charm of the underrated turnip

11/09/2013 7:19 AM

11/09/2013 7:19 AM

The eyes eat first. This old adage is as true when shopping at the market as it is pulling up to a table dotted with an array of enticing dishes.

Maybe it is a vivid color or an undulating shape that suggests an ingredient full of life; our appetite is first sketched with our eyes.

When you walk through the market in these new November days, your gaze will no doubt come upon the blushing fall beauty that is the turnip. With a shifting color scheme that goes from light white at the tip up to fuller pinks and purples before cascading green stems and leaves, the orb shaped turnip is impossible to ignore.

And though shoppers are taken with it’s seasonal good looks, a good number of market bags go home turnip-less, not knowing quite what to do with the pale charms of this root vegetable.

This is a shame indeed, because the turnip is a vegetable with a variety of uses to pair with its lovely flavor. It is no stretch to call the turnip the complete package, as when bought at the market in season, you are quite likely to find its fetching greens still attached — two vegetables for the price of one.

Though it differs from other root vegetables in some respects, the turnip enjoys many of the same cooking applications. You can roast it, mash it, braise the greens, make chips of it — really anything you like. In this season of

comfort foods

, the versatility of this basic root means it can find a place in just about any meal.

Think of the turnip as the handsome red headed child in a family picture with its brothers the potato and radish. It has some starch to it like the potato, but is packed with more healthy vitamins in the root and greens than just complex carbohydrates.

And though it shares sweet and slightly spicy flavor notes with the radish, it is smoother and more rounded, making it ideal in something as simple as a root vegetable mash.

This soup recipe is just one way of showcasing the many enjoyments to be had with the turnip. Pairing the soothing starch of the potato with the enhanced tastes that come with roasting turnip, the soup is a simple and straightforward way to feed and please a crowd.

Once you have enchanted even those picky eaters who may not know the allure of the turnip, you can find new ways to incorporate this versatile and delicious vegetable into your catalog of cold weather menus.

Roasted Turnip and Potato Soup with Parsley Oil

This recipe is designed to be easily adapted to a vegan or vegetarian recipe by substituting 2 tablespoons olive oil for the butter and omitting the cream at the end. You don’t have to skin the turnips, but doing so gives a smoother, lighter appearance to the soup. This soup can also be quite lovely with chopped, cooked turnip greens stirred in, reinforcing the ‘nose to tail’ vegetable principle.

Makes 8 servings 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt 8 medium sized turnips, skinned, quartered 2 tablespoons butter 1 yellow onion, small dice 2 ribs of celery, small dice 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 bunch parsley, stems and leaves (reserved for parsley oil) separated 2 large baking potatoes, skinned, medium dice 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 1/4 cup heavy cream to finish (optional)

First, roast turnips. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss quartered turnips in mixing bowl with 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place turnips on parchment lined baking sheet, cut side down with slices facing same direction. Roast 12 minutes, then simply flip each piece so they all face different direction. Roast another 10-12 minutes. Remove and chop half turnips, reserving other roasted quarters.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in medium stockpot over medium heat until melted and browning. Add onion, celery, garlic and parsley stems and sweat until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes, chopped roasted turnips and 1 teaspoon salt, then cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 25-30 minutes, until potatoes are fully cooked and some pieces start to break apart, thickening soup.

Stir in fresh thyme leaves, heavy cream (if using) and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt to taste. Ladle into bowls and top each with bits of roasted turnip and a drizzle of parsley oil.

Parsley Oil Makes 1 cup 1 bunch parsley leaves 1/2 lemon, juiced 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put parsley leaves blender, add lemon juice and a splash of oil. Blend, adding oil slowly to until smooth.

Tyler Fox, personal chef/event caterer who emphasizes ‘nose-to-tail’ cooking philosophy as well as vegan and local/farm to table foods.

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