Turnip & leek pie

Turnip & greens pie

I like to try to eat local, seasonal vegetables, but I know in the winter it’s just not possible. Oh, sure, I buy winter squash and kale and other cold season veg, but I’m fooling myself if I think it’s grown any where near here. And that’s why I’m absolutely thrilled to belong to a CSA! In the summer I know my vegetables are local and seasonal! Veggies that grow together taste good together!

I love the idea of community gardens and alotments – shared patches of land that people work together to grow food. Eating is such a communal activity, it seems right that growing food should be as well. We get a box of vegetables delivered to us each saturday, and I feel like a kid on Christmas morning as I lift out all of our treasures. And then through the week we visit the farm to pick certain crops that are in season. The boys like to come, too (especially when it’s raspberry season) and they’re a big help in filling up my baskets. It’s a joy to watch them meander through glowing green rows of sweet peas and tomatoes, following the dizzy paths of bees buzzed on sunshine; so pleased with themselves when they find plump, warm vegetables. It’s wonderful to get vegetables I know we love, of course, but it’s a fun challenge to get some we’re not as familiar with, as well. I love dreaming up recipes that will make any vegetable taste good.

This first week wasn’t a challenge at all! I love everything we got – spinach, chard, kale, leeks and … turnips!! Turnips are among my favorite vegetables. And these were beautiful little spring turnips, creamy white and sweet. They didn’t need to be peeled. And their greens were in great shape, as well, which is something I almost never find at the grocery store. I think that turnips, thyme and sharp cheddar are a nearly perfect combination, and I decided to bake that combination into a pie. I like leeks with thyme and cheddar, too, so of course I added those. I wanted to cook the turnip greens into the pie, and I added a big helping of spinach, to soften their sharp flavor. I decided to make a buttermilk crust, just for a change, but you could easily use a regular pate brisée crust, if you wanted something flakier.

Turnip pie

Here’s The Coup with Heven Tonite, because he says, “let’s give everybody homes and a garden plot.” I love this song – it’s the prettiest revolutionary rap song ever.
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Turnip & pecan soup

Turnip & pecan soup

I think if turnips were people, they’d have a good sense of humor. They’d be sweet, but they wouldn’t be universally popular, because that sweetness would be hidden under a fairly sharp sarcastic edge. Now that I’ve personified turnips, I’m going to tell you how I chopped them up and ate them! Mwah ha ha ha!!

It might sound odd, but whenever I feel physically or emotionally low, I start to crave turnips. They’re not a traditionally comforting food, I don’t think, because of their edginess, but they always sound good to me when I’m not feeling well. Usually in soup form. So that’s what I made. This soup is simple but nice. The star of the show is the turnips, but there’s a pleasant nuttiness from the pecans, and a freshness from the parsley. It’s fairly easy to make – it has plenty of flavor without a broth, so you don’t have to take the time to prepare that.

To make it ultimately comforting, you’d serve it with cheese toasts made with sharp cheddar. We had a lot of leftover pizza to get through, so the toasts felt redundant, but I grated some sharp cheddar in mine, and it was very tasty!

Here’s Nina Simone with Nina’s Blues. One of my favorite songs ever. Why? Because it’s a little bit like turnips. Suprisingly comforting. She’s not doing well (she plans to lay her head on a railway track) but in the end she triumphantly declares that the sun will shine in her back door some day. Ba da ba!!
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Beer-braised vegetable pie

Beer-braised vegetable pie

I’m not really a fan of St. Patrick’s day. I’m not Irish, and even if I was, I think St Patrick’s day would piss me off, because I’m curmudgeonly like that. Plus I have to work in a pub-like restaurant on St Patrick’s day and I’m scared that they’re going to make me wear a green plastic bowler hat. They wouldn’t do that, would they?

However, everywhere I’ve looked lately I’ve been reading about mother-flippin beef stew, with beer in it. And it actually sounds kind of good. And it would make a lovely pie. And I had turnips and carrots and mushrooms whispering to me from my vegetable drawer. So this is what I made… It has a peppery crust made with dark beer. It has balsamic-roasted mushrooms, but cut quite fat and juicy. It has carrots and turnips braised in beer. It has sage, rosemary and thyme. It has sharp cheddar. And it has some toasted oats. It’s my nod to St Patrick’s day, and it is very yummy, as it would be on any day of the year.

Here’s The Pogues with Bottle of Smoke, because I love it and it’s stuck in my head! I like the idea of a bottle of smoke, too.
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Tapioca-choux dumplings with turnips and cheddar

Turnip & cheddar choux dumplings

As I was making these, I thought to myself, “I really can’t imagine anyone else in the world cooking these.” Not that they were hard to make, or that they didn’t taste good (they did!). It was just such a strange and winding path that led me to them. First of all, I bought some tapioca flour at the Super Tropical Food Mart. This reminded me of an intriguing recipe I’d seen in the New York Times for Brazilian cheese puffs. And my tapioca flour is called “Yuca flour.” For some reason this made me think of Japanese Takoyaki. I thought maybe they add yucca root to that. Which is an entirely different thing, of course, but the connection had been made! I like watching how-to videos about takoyaki on youTube. (In fact I like watching any short cooking videos with non-English narration. I really do.) Anyway – takoyaki always seemed like a messy-fun thing to make and eat (and say!), and I had dreamed of trying a version of my own, with a muffin tin instead of a real takoyaki pan. And I’ve always wanted to try making something with a choux batter … but with something tasty stuffed inside!! Why roasted turnips, sharp cheddar and thyme? Why? Why not, I say! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I pulled these out of the oven, but I liked them a lot. They were soft and dense and cheesy on the inside, and nicely crispy on the outside. We ate them with leftover vegetarian haggis, cause everyone knows you’re supposed to eat turnips with haggis!

I should mention that if you don’t have tapioca flour on hand, these will work fine with regular flour – just use 1 1/2 cups. And if you’re not a turnip fan, you could substitute roasted parsnips or butternut squash, or just use cheese – any cheese you like!

Here’s Duke Ellington with Tapioca
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vegetarian cornish pasties

Turnips!

We got some beautiful little turnips from our CSA, so I decided to make vegetarian cornish pasties. I’ve made them in the past, and I keep tweaking the recipe a bit to add more flavor. Potatoes and crust are both very understated and comforting, but I add some sharper flavors. I add shallots, mixed with herbs and sweetened with balsamic; and turnips, of course; and gruyere cheese, which is pleasantly sharp and nutty. And I added some greens this time, because I love them. I tried to maintain the uncooked-filling rule, though, because it intrigues me.

Here’s Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie, by Belle and Sebastian. I have no idea what they mean by it (and I’m not sure they do, either!) but it fits this blog, if by pastie you mean savory pie (no, Tom Waits, not those kinds of pasties) and by bourgeois you mean thoroughly ordinary.
Belle and Sebastian – Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie

If you’d like to see how it is really done, watch this video. It’s of Kay Bolitho, who cooks at the Port Eliot estate in Cornwall. I love everything about this video! The kitchen is beautiful, and I love the strange little objects around and about. And I love her gentle, measured voice.
Making Pasties in Cornwall

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