How can someone, especially someone who purports to be interested in healthy eating and vegetables, reach the ripe old age of 40-something and still never have tasted a turnip? Shocking, I know; but yes, indeed, that someone is moi.
I blame it all on Modern American Drama. One of the first courses I took as a university student, it was taught by my mentor, John Ditsky , for whom I harbored a 20 year-long crush (but that’s neither here nor there).
Truly, since my undergrad days, whenever I’d think of turnips, all that came to mind was that scene in which Estragon asks Vladimir for a carrot but gets handed a turnip instead–and the turnip, having resided in his filthy coat pocket for who knows how long, is not exactly an appetizing substitute. So, for many years, just the thought of turnips would throw me into a bout of existential angst. I believed turnips to be the unwanted progeny of carrots. Or perhaps parsnips. Or, on the other hand, just anything. But then, I thought, what is anything, anyway? And aren’t we all just nothing waiting for something? It was just a turnip, after all, no more than that. Nothing to be done, nothing to be done. . .oh, when will He arrive? When?? Must. . . take. . . off. . . this. . . .boot! [She exits. End of Act I.]
Soooooo. . . . back to the turnips. When our organic produce box arrived this past week and I spied a kilo bag of turnips, I was thrown into a panic. What to do, what to do? Would there be a way out of this mess? (“Yes, you had us rather worried for a bit, Mum. And why do you keep talking like that? Who is this Godot person, anyway?”).
Well, I decided it was time to Confront the Turnip. Like it or not, I was going to cook with these babies! In order to survive the ordeal, I decided to start small, something easy and relatively foolproof. Soup!
One of our favorites here in the DDD household is a fabulous Parsnip and Pear soup from Flip Shelton’s Aussie cookbook, Green (and since turnips are the illegitimate offshoots of parsnips, it gave me an idea . . . ). I had been both surprised and delighted by the fabulous melange of smooth, sweet, spicy, and savory in that soup. Shelton’s recipe was extremely simple, yet the final result exalted the lowly roots and fruit to a level beyond the sum of their parts. I thought, what about a similar recipe for turnips with pears?
As usual, we had a bunch of overripe pears in the house, so there was no problem finding the fundamental ingredients. And it also occurred to me that this would be a very suitable entry to Sweetnicks‘ weekly ARF/5-A-Day roundup, so it will also be my contribution to that event this week.
After a bit of digging around for some kind of turnip and pear soup recipe, I found something that sounded appealing in my old Sundays at Moosewood cookbook, called, oddly enough, Turnip and Pear Soup. The challenge began!
The soup was ridiculously easy to prepare, and took only about 30 minutes from start to finish (including peeling and chopping). It was warming and really quite tasty. While I know that turnips are not to everyone’s taste, if you’re feeling adventurous (or existential–I mean, who knows when we’ll next have the chance to taste a turnip?), then go ahead and give this one a try.
Turnip and Pear Soup (adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant)
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 medium-large turnips, peeled and chopped
3 large ripe pears, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2-3 cups vegetable broth (depending on how quickly the vegetables cook)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1-1/2 to 2 cups pear or apple juice
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan, saute the onion in the oil for about 5 minutes, until translucent but not browned (I ended up browning it a bit, and it didn’t seem to make a difference). Add the chopped root vegetables and fruit (if used) along with the salt and herbs. Saute for another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
Add the vegetable stock and cook, covered, on low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and tender. Add the spices. In a blender or food processor, puree the soup with juice or milk, until smooth and thick. Season with black pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh or more dried thyme, if desired. Makes 4 cups.