Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Baby Turnip Greens & Lacinato Kale

While I have access to a veggie garden bursting with a selection of young tender greens, I'm making the most of it, daily preparing meals from the backyard bounty.

A friend commented on yesterday's post asking me if the green rhubarb I'd prepared from the garden tasted different from red rhubarb. My response was that it's a bit sweeter, or shall we say, less tart than the red variety.

You wouldn't expect the green rhubarb to be slightly sweeter than the red variety since it's natural to assume green is unripe and thus tart -- however, that's not the case with rhubarb.

Just as it's a mistake to assume green rhubarb is more tart than red, it's also erroneous to assume that baby turnips are unripe because they're not yet large and bulbous, and that baby kale will be lacking in flavor because the leaves are delicate.

As you'll note in the slide show above, baby turnips are about the size of radishes and their leaves are soft and smallish, as are the leaves of baby, purple lacinato kale.

What I've noticed eating spring greens from the garden, whether lettuce, spinach, kale, turnip greens, or snap pea greens, is that they're all slightly sweet, tender, and less fibrous than mature greens.

This time last week, I posted a dish made by local farmer, chef and bistro owner, Eric Skokan. Titled, Lamb with Baby Turnips and Pea Greens, I described the method Eric used to cook the dish, and then I also had the opportunity to sit down and eat the meal.

Eric had pan sauteed the baby turnips on high until they browned. He then added a handful of turnip greens and wilted them quickly. Applying this rapid cooking method meant the baby turnips were par-cooked, as were the greens.

I decided to cook the tiny turnips, their greens, and the baby lacinato kale I'd picked, longer than a rapid saute, since the toughness of the par-cooked turnips wasn't pleasant.

You can follow my method in the steps below or in the slide show above.

Baby Turnip Greens & Lacinato Kale
1) Wash a handful of baby lacinato kale leaves and the same of turnip greens.
2) Cut the baby turnips from the stalks, leaving maybe an inch of stalk in place. Cut each baby turnip either in half or quarters.
3) Trim the woody stalks from all the leaves. You might even peel the leaves off some of the tougher stalks.
4) Now chop half an onion into chunks, and a red bell pepper or a carrot.
5) Toss the onion, pepper and or carrot into a oil-lined skillet and saute over medium heat.
6) Toss the halved (or quartered) turnips into the skillet and stir.
7) Now add the kale and turnip greens and stir the veggies until the leaves begin to wilt.
8) Add a splash of water (maybe quarter of a cup) and put the lid on the skillet. Cook the vegetables on med to low for about 5-7 mins.
9) Test the turnips for tenderness; cook longer if they need it, and season to taste.

To Serve: At the top is a picture of the platted vegetables without meat. I decorated the edge of the plate with the turnips, and dotted rock salt over the middle pile of greens.

To the left is a version of the dish, with chunks of organic buffalo and rice meatloaf at the edge of the plate. I topped the meat with spoonfuls of a sweet tomato relish since it complimented the slight bitter-sweet flavor of the greens.

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