Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tempting Turnips: Enjoying from Root to Stem

Whenever I make zucchini pancakes with the kids at Olivewood Gardens I always ask them to give me ideas for other vegetable pancakes they could make using the recipe."Carrots!," they'll shout. "Broccoli! Cauliflower! Sweet potato!"

No one ever shouted out turnips--and I never thought to suggest it. But the folks at Specialty Produce gave me a bag filled with beautiful baby gold, pink, and Japanese turnips last week.

And, it occurred to me that they are among the few vegetables that are edible from root to stem. So, not only could I make pancakes from the root, I could also saute the greens for a delicious side dish.

I'm going to assume that like me, you see turnips as one of those root vegetables that you pick up to add to a chicken soup stock, but otherwise ignore. It's been a big mistake for me. These baby turnips in particular are not only very pretty, with their bold colors, they're really delicious. Raw, they're sweet with just a hint of spiciness--kind of like radishes. Cooked, they're melt-in-your mouth sweet.

And, what I especially appreciate about them is that they're low in carbs. So, for dealing with diabetes, I can create dishes that I would otherwise use potatoes for and have something equally delicious but less problematic. So, mashed turnips instead of mashed potatoes. Scalloped turnips. Sauteed turnips. You get the idea. And, I can eat them raw, chopped into a salad. Can't do that with potatoes.

So, I'm a convert. I took a bunch of those gold baby turnips, trimmed and cleaned the greens, rendered the fat from half a slice of diced bacon and sauteed the greens in the fat with garlic and added the bacon pieces and sliced boiled turnips. They were delicious with a scoop of cooked millet.

Later in the week, I grated more turnips and made turnip pancakes--frying some in rendered duck fat and the rest in olive oil. I think I've come up with a competitive latke dish for next Chanukah. Crisp and sweet, they look so pretty from start--grated and then molded into pancakes--to finish.

Making them is very easy--and they're a great way to introduce your kids to a new veggie (and maybe even yourself). Be sure to use a cast iron skillet to get them extra crispy. They're also freezable. Reheat them straight from the freezer in a 350-degree oven until warmed through and crisp.

Baby Turnip Pancakes
(Printable recipe)
Makes about two dozen, three-inch pancakes

1 pound of baby turnips, trimmed but not peeled
6 large green onions, trimmed
3 cloves garlic
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup Panko or seasoned bread crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons fresh, chopped herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme, etc.)
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil or rendered duck fat for frying

1. Grate the turnips coarsely, using the large holes of a box grater or food processor grater. Put the grated turnips in a colander, set over a bowl, and let the liquid drain from the turnips.
2. Chop the green onions coarsely and add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add the garlic and pulse until the onions and garlic are minced.
3. Put all the vegetables in a large bowl and add the Panko, baking powder, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir it all together to fully mix the ingredients.
4. Add the eggs and mix well. The batter should be moist but not runny.
5. Heat 1/4-inch of oil or duck fat in a hot pan. Place a tiny bit of the batter in the pan. If it begins to sizzle, the fat is hot enough for the batter. Use a large spoon and drop the batter into the pan, then flatten into a pancake. Don't crowd the pancakes by putting too many in at one time. Cook for several minutes on each side until the pancakes are golden brown. Put the pancakes on a plate with paper towels placed on top to drain the fat. Then serve (with applesauce, sour cream, or creme fraiche).

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  1. I like this recipe a lot, it is one of my favourites. I`ve tried it yesterday and it was very good, my husband just loves it, thanks a lot for sharing.

  2. Where can you buy baby turnips in San Diego?

  3. You may have to wait until next fall, but try Specialty Produce, and Suzie's Farm, Sage Mountain Farm, and Schaner Farms at the farmers market. Good luck and let me know what you find.