Buying a share in a community-sponsored agriculture farm every summer since 2001 has forced my family to try some vegetables we wouldn’t have chosen to buy at the store! Turnips are a good example. They’re nutritious, but we struggle to prepare them in ways that we’ll enjoy eating.
My father really likes turnips, so I grew up seeing turnips on the dinner table often. Usually they were cut in chunks, boiled and drained, and served with butter. I did not like them at all. Sometimes when my mother roasted meat, she would toss chunks of turnips, potatoes, and carrots into the pan–and then in the serving dish, you couldn’t easily tell which pale chunk was a potato and which was a turnip, so I’d end up with some of each on my plate. When I was very young, this turned into a horrible game of suspense, in which I would put a bite into my mouth and find out whether it was a pleasant potato or a terrible turnip, but as I got older I gradually decided that turnips roasted in chicken fat actually tasted pretty good, especially with rosemary and plenty of salt.
As an adult, I rarely eat meat, but I love roasted vegetables. One easy way to make turnips tasty is to cut them in small pieces, toss with oil, herbs, and salt, spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and bake at 400F, stirring every 10 minutes until they begin to brown. Even better is a medley of vegetables roasted this way.
When we got more turnips in our crate last Wednesday, having not yet used the previous week’s turnips, Daniel decided it was time to try a new trick that might turn turnips tasty. He found this recipe for Crispy Turnip Fries, and we decided to have a “burgers and fries” meal in which he would make oven fries out of potatoes and sweet potatoes (on separate pans) as well, and we’d reheat some previously-frozen homemade veggie burgers.
Because we don’t really like Parmesan cheese (except in Stuffed Shells!) and he wasn’t sure what seasoning would appeal to our 5-year-old Lydia, Daniel didn’t season the strips of turnip at all–just coated them in oil (he used avocado oil) and baked them. Maybe cheese contributes to a “crispy” texture? Our turnip fries did not turn out crispy at all.
And that’s not the fault of the cooking method. Our potato and sweet potato fries made by the same method, with the same oil, in the same oven were adequately crisp. The turnip fries were so floppy and flabby they resembled worms.
And they tasted like turnips.
I decided to try sprinkling them with seasoned salt, which is just a convenient way of adding the paprika, onion, and garlic of the Crispy Turnip Fries recipe, as well as salt which makes any fries taste better! This was a big improvement! I don’t think I’d ever tried seasoned salt on turnips before, and it is very complementary to the flavor of turnips. But it doesn’t improve their consistency.
Lydia loved the turnip fries with seasoned salt and asked for more! Our 14-year-old Nicholas was grumpy about having been promised “fries” and finding that the potato fries weren’t as plentiful as he expected–but he tried one turnip fry and said that the flavor was fine but he couldn’t stand the texture.
Daniel wants to try mixing seasoned salt into the oil and frying turnips in a cast-iron skillet, like he often does with potatoes to make crispier fries than we get from the oven. We’ll report back if we find a method that works better….
Trying something new once in a while makes life interesting! My family recently had the opportunity to sample coffee and hot-cocoa mixes made with therapeutic fungi. Read all about our opinions of these unusual beverage experiences, and what science shows about the benefits and risks of Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Reishi, and Cordyceps, in my article at Kitchen Stewardship!
Visit Hearth & Soul for more new ideas!