Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cooking with turnips

It's fall, even here in California, The air has an edge. The leaves have done their minor color change and fallen into the gutters. Our farm box is schizoid now, filled with summer's final offerings in the form of late tomatoes and corn, pointing toward fall with greens and Tokyo turnips.

Tokyo turnips are smaller than the baseballs commonly seen at supermarkets. Raw, they are sharp without being bitter. Cooked, they take on a silky quality with a nice bite. I had a bunch with their greens still attached. As the days passed and the greens began wilting, I took action in the form of turnip soup. I also had a nice square of duck liver mousse from the Fatted Calf. I wanted to serve it with toasted bread, and thought the soup would be a nice foil for all that richness.

I've probably lost a few readers at this point. Thank you, intrepid souls still with me. The turnip, like its friends the rutabaga and parsnip, are victims of the bad rep only generations of poor preperation can foment.

I riffed off Deborah Madison's Turnip Soup with Gruyere Croutons, found in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Her recipe calls for turnips, their greens, potatoes, butter, leeks, garlic, parlsey, thyme, white pepper, water or vegetable stock, cream or milk, and the recipe for Gruyere Croutons, which is on page 209.

I did not have Gruyere, leeks, milk, white pepper, or parsley. I did have potatoes, onions, garlic, chicken broth, thyme, and smoked bacon, which I utilized to excellent effect.

My recipe for turnip soup:

About eight cups chicken broth
1 bunch Tokyo turnips with their greens, everything washed and sliced into blender-friendly sizes
garlic to taste--I used four cloves, sliced
One onion, sliced
one large or two to three small potatoes, Idaho or Finns, sliced--Peruvians, with their purple flesh, would make this soup bizarre-looking
Olive oil
four slices smoked bacon, sliced into bits.

Heat the olive oil (a sploosh, as Tamasin Day-Lewis would say) in a soup pot. Add the onion, garlic, and bacon. Allow the bacon to render while the onion and garlic soften. Add the turnips and potatoes, allowing them to soften and cook a bit without browning too much--no more than medium heat. After about ten minutes, add the broth. Allow the vegetables to cook about fifteen minutes. Add the greens. Let everything cook gently, until the vegetable are soft, about half an hour.

At this point, you can handle the bacon two ways. I was prepraring the soup the day before eating it, and wanted the smoky flavor to penetrate the dish. So I just tossed mine into the soup pot. But If you are planning to eat your soup the same day, you could saute the bacon in another pan, so it gets nice and crispy.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender, if you are lucky enough to have one, or use your blender, remembering all the while that soup burns are not a nice way to spend the evening.

Now you can either sprinkle the bacon over your soup and serve, or you can do as I did and allow the soup to cool, refrigerate it, and heat the next day, adding more smoked bacon for a nice surpise on the spoon amidst the pureed soup.

Go easy on the salt, as the bacon will be pretty salty. If you have things like yogurt or sour cream, go for it. Or spread your bread with duck liver mousse, eat it, and cut the richness with a nice peppery spoonful of turnip soup.

Hockeyman pronounced this soup "very fallish" and consumed a great bowl of it. Kitty was less impressed. Finally, something he doesn't eat.

Madison's recipe may be found on page 219 of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Broadway Books, New York, 1997.

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