Fine Cooking (November 2009)
Pity the turnip.
In the social order of root vegetables, turnips are by far overshadowed by their flashier, more adored brethren.
There are onions -- perhaps the most popular kids in school -- who get invited to every party.
The prettiest girls in school -- carrots and beets -- get attention for their looks.
And potatoes -- the chunky but popular kids -- inspire all manner of enthusiasm, drawing crowds wherever they go.
But the lowly turnips sit at the table by themselves, passed over and often forgotten. (At least they're a bit closer to the action than jicama and rutabaga -- nerds!)
It's time the turnip got its due.
We started eating turnips two years ago, when our farm share started rotating them into our weekly produce. We would often let them languish in our produce bin, not sure what to do with them. Smaller, fleshier varieties were incorporated into salads, but the firmer, heartier varieties often sat for unused for weeks.
But then we discovered that like many other root vegetables, turnips really shine when roasted. We wouldn't do anything special to them -- just peel and cube them, toss them with some oil, salt & pepper, and roast them at a high heat until they were nice and caramelized.
Eventually, we started experimenting more with our roasted turnips, tossing them with red pepper flakes or maple syrup, which we loved.
So we were excited -- yes, excited -- to try this spin on roasted turnips that incorporates maple syrup and cardamom. It's a simple and low-fuss technique: Roast the turnips, toss with a glaze made of butter and spice and then serve.
In fact, we were a little too eager to serve this dish to guests, because we forgot the cilantro that garnishes the dish (those who dislike cilantro can garnish with parsley and mint).
Garnish or not, the turnips were delicious. The cardamom lends its exotic scent to the sweet maple and the earthy, caramelized vegetables. It's one dynamic side dish!
So give the potatoes a rest on one of your winter menus and instead serve these turnips.
Because really, even turnips deserve a chance.
(This photo: Fine Cooking)
3-1/2 lb. purple-top turnips, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice (10 cups)
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter
3 Tbs. pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh cilantro (or a mix of parsley and mint)
Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F. Line two large, heavy-duty rimmed baking sheets with foil. In a mixing bowl, combine the turnips, oil, and 11/2 tsp. salt. Toss to coat well. Divide the turnips between the two pans and spread evenly in one layer. Roast for 20 minutes. With a large spatula, flip the turnips. Swap the pans’ positions and roast until tender and nicely browned on a few sides, 15 to 20 minutes. (The turnips on the lower rack may be done sooner than those on the upper rack.)
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the maple syrup, vanilla, and red pepper flakes, and then the coriander and cardamom, until the sauce is heated, 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat.
Transfer the turnips to a large mixing bowl. Gently reheat the sauce, if necessary, and stir in the lemon juice. With a heatproof spatula, toss the sauce with the turnips. Add half of the cilantro and salt to taste and toss again. Transfer to a warm serving dish and garnish with the remaining cilantro.
Make Ahead Tips
This dish can be made a day ahead. To reheat, put the dressed turnips (without the cilantro) in a large nonstick skillet and cover with a lid. Heat gently over medium-low heat until warmed through,stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.Add the cilantro and season to taste with salt just before serving.