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Yes, You Can Squeeze Flavor from a Spring Turnip

Turnips get a bad wrap. Most of us only know them as these oversized, rock-hard roots that you couldn’t squeeze a drop of water from.

turnips and red peppersYet if you can find turnips at a farmers market, give them a chance. They taste very little like their larger cousins, which Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart call “storage turnips” in their new “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” (Gibbs Smith, $25). The two will be discussing their book at this year’s San Antonio Book Fair. Their demonstration is set for 10 a.m. April 2 at the Central Market Cooking Tent at the Central Library Plaza on Augusta Street. A signing will follow.

“Turnips meld well with bell peppers and make a striking contrast that is particularly good with quail and turkey,” they write. “This may be made ahead a day or so and reheated.”

They also recommend storing spring turnips for no more than a few days, while those so-called storage turnips will last a few weeks.

One nice feature of Dupree and Graubart’s recipes is that they include variations to show you how versatile these vegetables can be.

Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables v2 This helped when testing the recipe. I had enough turnips on hand, but not enough red peppers, so I added a small golden delicious apple as the variation suggested. It worked perfectly with apple and red pepper both in the blend. And the dish was even more attractive with its blend of red, green and white. But flavor that is the real bottom line, and this recipe tastes so good that it’s a keeper. I would also serve it with pork chops, roasted chicken and maybe even a hearty fish, such as halibut or flounder.

Turnips and Red Peppers

1 pound red bell peppers
1 pound small white turnips, peeled
3 to 6 tablespoons butter, divided use
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

turnipsCore, seed and slice the peppers. Cut the peeled turnips into quarters if the turnips are golf-ball size, or into eights if the turnips are larger. (Smaller young turnips can skip the next step.) Add larger turnips to a pot of boiling water and cook for a few minutes to blanch; drain.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan, and add the peppers, young turnips or parboiled larger turnips and the garlic. Cook over medium heat until the turnips are tender when pierced with a knife and peppers are still crunchy; add more butter if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Variation: Turnips and Apples

Substitute any firm cooking apple for the peppers. Cut into wedges, leaving skin on and proceed as above.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart


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