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Recipe #89: A Recipe For My Mother -- Grilled Carrots & Turnips Seasoned With Fresh Herbs & Spices

Posted Mar 15 2010 11:59am
Now, if I took a poll of a random sampling of people -- let's say we were at a rock concert or a sporting event -- and requested, "Raise your hands if you like turnips!" I realize that not many people would probably raise their hands. If, right about now, you are imagining this percentage as the equivalent of a lone schoolchild raising their hand in class, then you are probably not far from the truth. :)

The turnip has the unfortunate distinction of being one of those vegetables that we all know is good for us, but none of us really look forward to eating. Let's face it: Turnips have gotten a bad rap, & along with lima beans & brussel spouts, were probably on most people's "DNR dinner menus." :)  Part of the reason is that, uncooked, they have the same sharp, biting flavor as radishes, (which is a big turn-off for a heck of a lot of people), & after they are cooked, they are, OK, let's be honest, a little bland and often mushy (especially when overcooked!!!). Their flavor when cooked is akin to brussel sprouts, except without the unpleasant aftertaste. :)

Now if the above "testament to a turnip" isn't a ringing endorsement to make this recipe, I don't know what is. Hahaha! But seriously, the turnip is rarely on people's "most wanted" vegetables list, unless we are talking about criminal vegetables that were the bane of our childhood existences. They would probably rank right up there with liver on the "foods that children sincerely hope their parents will never force them to eat ever again."  :-D

Also, on that note, if you grew up with a mother who didn't know how to properly cook turnips, & you were then scarred for life from the experience, then maybe that's not the turnip's fault. ;) A lot of us are brave enough to overcome our bad childhood food memories & associations, and give the foods we hated as children a second chance.

So why am I talking about all of this? Because I'd like to prove that there is hope for the lowly turnip after all. Heck, this is going to be my championing magnum opus to the turnip -- let's call it "Ode to A Turnip" (!) -- that would even make my mother proud.

In fact, I expressly mention my mother because not only does she happen to like turnips, but is also the one who brought us several turnips (among other farm-fresh vegetables, including the wild mushrooms I just used for two recent recipe creations) during their visit to see us last weekend.  Now, I've got to find something to do with them, other than using them as temporary cat toys for Java & Cleo to chase after. JUST kidding.

While I will usually eat a turnip if presented to me in raw or cooked format, I think my mother forgot that it's the other sister who truly loves eating turnips. ;) Although admittedly not a huge fan of turnips myself, I am grateful for my mother's gesture and am determined to find a way to make them more appealing & exciting to both my own little family unit here in DC & also to the general public at large. It's the least I can do for healthy cooks everywhere (& their family members who might not have any choice in the matter!).

So take another chance on the turnip & give it your vote of confidence. And with that turnip-affirming introduction, I give you....
Grilled Carrots & Turnips Seasoned With Fresh Herbs & Spices

The saving grace of this recipe is the carrots, scallions, spices, & herbs.  In other words, everything else surrounding the turnips is what is helping to make them more palatable. :)  The carrots add a much needed sweetness, which offsets the flavor of the turnips, & in conjunction with the scallions, herbs, & lemon juice, help to round out the flavor of this dish considerably. Also, the sumac is absolutely essential to the overall flavor of this dish, so I strongly recommend that you not skip over this ingredient -- Its salty, tangy flavor completes this recipe; the kind I use already contains salt, so if the kind you use doesn't, just add a dash of salt & you'll be all set.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 turnip
1/2 c. whole baby carrots
1/2 c. water (or more, if necessary)
2 scallions, sliced horizontally into rounds
1 tsp. sumac
1/4 tsp. lemon juice
1 large fresh sage leaf, torn into small pieces
1 sprig fresh oregano, leaves only
1 sprig thyme, leaves only

Directions: Sauté baby carrots & turnips in olive oil on medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until slightly softened but yet still firm & crunchy. In other words, they should have the consistency of lightly steamed vegetables. Carrots can brown a little bit but don't let them burn. Turnips will most likely turn a light pink color; this is normal.  Then add water, scallions, & fresh herbs & continue to cook until scallions soften (only a few minutes).  Remove from heat. Add sumac & lemon juice, mix thoroughly, & serve.  And that's it! You've got a tasty side dish that's not only different from the usual run-of-the-mill turnip preparations, but is also, in my opinion, far more tasty & exciting. :) Bon Appétit!

Yield: 1 serving.

Alternate Preparation Ideas: You can also grill this dish on an outside grill, which would be my preferred method were we to have easy access to an outside grill. Be sure to use a brush to lightly baste the vegetables with an olive oil & lemon juice mixture -- Please note that you may have to adjust the amounts of olive oil & lemon juice from what's actually listed above. (Obviously, the water will be an unnecessary ingredients for the grilling process itself.) Place the turnips & carrots on the grill first, since they will take the longest to cook. Don't add scallions until the last minute (literally), since they are more delicate & cook quickly; they really do cook in about a minute.  The fresh herbs will very likely char on the grill, so I would instead recommend using the 1/2 c. water to blanch them in a sauté pan as a separate step. In this case, you'll want to blanch the herbs in their whole form on high heat for about 30 seconds to a minute. Then, drain the excess liquid  & sprinkle the leaves on top of the grilled vegetables. (The sage leaf should still be torn into little pieces before adding it to the final product.) Combine the herbs & the veggies  & mix everything together thoroughly. Then season with sumac, & serve.

Chef Notes: I made this for lunch (& also ate some protein to round out the meal) but it can also be made as a side dish for dinner.


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