Farmers Market Meals: Sauteed Turnips (with Salad, plus Mac and Cheese)

How weird is this: I had regular food in the house, but I made myself braised turnips for lunch the other day.  The reason: they are that good. Impossible, you say.  But hear me out. 

I probably would not ordinarily buy turnips, but we got some pretty pink ones in our Thanksgiving share from Tantre, and some white Hakurei turnips too.   It turns out that turnips are the candy of the vegetable world.  They are so unbelievably sweet.  Good raw or cooked. Who knew?

The Illinois Extension Service has this to say about turnips: Turnips grow wild in Siberia and have been eaten since prehistoric times. Rutabagas are a cross between cabbage and turnip.

With the cupboard almost bare last week, it took all my McGyver dinner skills to make a great meal using up odds and ends of cheese, extra milk, some bread about to go stale, a bunch of wilty parsley, and the last of a head of lettuce. Plus the turnips.  Doesn't sound like anything too stellar in there. But, I got this idea for the turnips from Epicurious and managed to pull something worthwhile (and inexpensive! and vegetarian!) together. 

Cheese (some of which was a smoked cheddar) and milk went into homemade macaroni and cheese. Is there anything that says "comfort food" louder than Mac and Cheese?  I made my favorite winter salad with pears, nuts, and blue cheese (more cheese from the odds and ends department). And the turnips with a crunchy bread crumb topping. 

It was so good, with all the textures represented.  And sweet, savory, smoky, salty, and just a tiny edge of racy bitterness in the meal. Watch out Lynne Rosetto Kasper - I'm coming for you. 

Sauteed Turnips with Crunchy Crumb Topping

1 large bunch turnips or two (pink and white ones)
2 T. butter
1 C. breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. parsley, minced
1/2 t. kalonji (aka Grains of Paradise, optional)
salt and pepper

First make crumb topping.  All the old cookbooks suggest making breadcrumbs by grating a loaf of stale bread on a metal grater. I tried it and it works!  So, melt a tablespoon of butter.  Into the hot frying pan, toast the crumbs in the butter until crisp. Add the garlic, parsley, kalonji, and salt and pepper. Toast a bit more then set aside topping until turnips are done. 

To saute the turnips. First remove tops (which are also edible, save in the fridge) and scrub the roots clean. Trim off root end, but no need to peel.  Cut turnips into uniform pieces, probably into quarters or sixths.  Melt remaining 1 T. butter in hot frying pan. Add turnips and saute until just golden and tender.  Sprinkle with crumb topping.  Serve with sides of creamy macaroni and cheese, and a crunchy, tart salad. Mmmm! 

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