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Published November 08, 2011, 11:30 PM

Halgrimson: Taming your turnip fears

Turnips and rutabagas were not foods found in the kitchen of my youth. We ate canned spinach and cooked cabbage and stewed tomatoes with great relish, but never those lovely cousins: turnips or rutabagas.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

Turnips and rutabagas were not foods found in the kitchen of my youth.

We ate canned spinach and cooked cabbage and stewed tomatoes with great relish, but never those lovely cousins: turnips or rutabagas. I think the reason we didn’t was that my father didn’t like them.

Until recently, I had never eaten a turnip. And although I had sampled rutabagas at the homes of friends and, oddly enough, in a French cooking class, turnips were a thing of mystery.

I decided it was about time to sample them. So I bought a bag of five small turnips, took them home, peeled them and cut them into chunks. I added chunks of potato and carrots to the pot and cooked them covered until the vegetables had softened. Then I mashed them and added some butter, cream, salt and pepper. We ate them with a roasted chicken and mushroom gravy, and I will fix them again soon.

Turnips are easier to cut up if they are carefully sliced in half after peeling.

Choose small turnips, as the flavor may be too strong in bigger and older ones.

Roasted Turnips

2 pounds turnips

1 tablespoon good olive oil


2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves minced

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Trim turnips. Leave baby turnips whole; cut larger turnips into bite-size pieces. Put turnips into a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss turnips to coat them with oil. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary. Roast turnips until tender and browned, about 30 minutes. Serves 6.

Note: You can also add other root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes to the turnips.

Creamed Turnip Soup

4 large turnips

2 small onions

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp. olive oil or butter


4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

½ cup heavy cream

Turnip greens or parsley to garnish

Peel turnips and chop them into small chunks. Set aside. Peel and finely chop onions. Set aside. Chop garlic and set aside.

Heat oil or butter in a medium pot over medium high heat. Add onions and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant.

Add turnips and broth. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer and cook until turnips are very tender.

Cool soup and using a blender or food processor, whiz soup in batches until very smooth.

Return soup to pot and stir in cream. Add salt to taste.

Garnish with shreds of thinly cut turnip greens or parsley. Serves 4 to 6.

Skillet Turnips

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons good olive oil

8 ounces thick-sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

4 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed

1 ½ pounds turnips, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 ½ pounds white-skinned potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Mix ¼ cup water, vinegar, and sugar in small bowl. Combine oil and bacon in heavy large skillet. Cook over medium-high until fat is rendered. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is softened. Add turnips and potatoes; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sea salt and toss. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until vegetables are almost tender, stirring and turning vegetables occasionally.

Push vegetables to 1 side of skillet. Pour vinegar mixture into empty space. Toss vegetables with vinegar mixture. Spread vegetables in even layer in skillet; cook until golden and slightly crisp on bottom. Turn vegetables and spread in even layer and cook until browned and slightly crisp on bottom. Continue to turn, spread, and cook vegetables until tender, golden, and crisp around edges. Season with more sea salt and black pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with parsley. Serves 4 to 6.

Sources: “The Food Lover’s Companion”, by Sharon Tyler Herbst; www.vegancoach.com; localfoods.about.com/od/turnips/tp/aboutturnips.htm; www.epicurious.com.

Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com