It’s slightly warm, but it’s a salad alright. The peas are still crisp but have deepened in color. The carrots are infused with a hint of ginger to bring out their sweetness even more. And the little, white turnips? They taste so much better than the raw, rigid slats after being tossed quickly in a hot pan. That’s the easiest solution that I can offer for an ingredient that’s been puzzling a lot of people I know.
I’ve been reading Cooked by Michael Pollan recently, and it’s true how drastic a transformation food can take on with just a little bit of heat (and in turn, how transformative the experience of cooking can be for a person). Whereas some foods I prefer raw to their cooked counterparts (apples, for instance), I’m reminded of how a good thing can get even better in other cases–like with these turnips.
Not to be confused with radishes, hakurei turnips are a miniature, mild-tasting variety of turnip that are commonly harvested in the spring and summer (and don’t keep as long as bigger kinds). They’re also known as Tokyo turnips, or Japanese turnips. They don’t taste spicy or peppery, like radishes, but slightly cabbagey and sweet. I was excited to get a bunch of them in my latest CSA share, and coincidentally this week, my brother (who lives in a different state) texted with the same predicament, but rather than delight, pondered, “what do I do with those little turnips?”
Make a satisfying side dish! I’ll admit I added the carrot and sugarsnap peas to this dish for color and appearances, but the combination proved tasty as well. The ginger is where the “dressing” in this “salad” comes in. I sliced up a lot of matchsticks of it to enforce this spicy flavoring. It’ll infuse the oil while being heated on a pan in just a few seconds, before the vegetables are tossed in. If you’re craving more flavor than that, plate the dish then mix up a small bowl of rice vinegar and soy sauce to drizzle on it when finished, along with some herbs (chives, pictured here).
setting up the station for a fast stir-fry
Finally, if you’ve got a healthy-looking bunch of turnip greens attached to the bulbs, those can be sauteed as well. They’re not just edible, but wildly beneficial to your health–here’s one way to do them both up in the dish.
Hakurei Turnip Sautee with Ginger, Carrots and Sugarsnap Peas
(makes 3-4 side dish servings)
1 bunch hakurei turnips, scrubbed, ends trimmed, and sliced thinly
1 carrot, scrubbed and sliced thinly on a bias
1/4 lb or so sugarsnap peas, ends snapped and thick strings pulled off
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and julienned
2-3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as vegetable oil
pinch of salt
optional 2 tsp each soy sauce and rice vinegar, combined
optional handful of chopped scallions, chives or cilantro
Heat a large saute pan or wok over medium-high heat with the oil. Add the ginger and cook for 10 seconds. Add all the vegetables and stir for about 1 minute, seasoning with a pinch of salt. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle the optional soy sauce-rice vinegar mixture on top, and scatter the optional herbs.
(for 3-4 side servings)
1 bunch hakurei turnips (from CSA): $2.00
1 carrot: $0.50
1/4 lb sugarsnap peas (at $4/lb): $1.00
vegetable oil, salt, soy sauce and rice vinegar: $0.50
chives (from houseplant): $0.05
Total: $4.05[Health Calculator: 3] Two brownie points: I can’t really give tremendous props to the dish since it’s not a complete meal, but if you have some brown rice and tofu along with you could very well be eating a superhumanly healthy meal. The turnips themselves, not just their tops, provide lots of Vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals, including calcium. With carrots, you’ll be Vitamin A-sufficient, and the sweet, spring peas lend Vitamin K and some protein.
Eight brownie points: I’m not sure why more local farms in these parts don’t take up growing ginger (the plant’s flowers are really lovely). Alas, that’s the only non-local ingredient found in this CSA- and farmers market-foraged dish–except of course, the salt, oil and optional seasonings.