It was slightly amusing to get into the kitchen this weekend and not have bread on the brain. For the first time in nearly three weeks, I was on the prowl for an original idea for something unrelated to combining flour and yeast. As many of you smart and seasonally-aware readers know, there was a reason I was becoming a bread-making fiend; there’s very little in the way of local vegetables and fruits in the midst of February, at least here in Philadelphia.
By official count this past Saturday afternoon, I had in my possession:
~ two large Purple Top turnips
~ one stub of a parsnip
~ two Nittany apples
~ about a dozen rough looking little potatoes
~ two heads of garlic
~ one sorry excuse for a rutabaga
~ an assortment of oven-dried corn, tomatoes and peppers
Time to get creative! I thought I’d tackle a turnip first since I was in the mood for something summery. Eeerrcch! What?!? Did I just associate turnips, the epitome of winter root vegetables, with summer flavors?! I’ve lost my marbles, surely! Nope. See, raw turnips in my mind are associated closely with the flavor of radishes, which in turn are very much associated with summertime salads in my mental rolodex of seasonal dishes. If you still think I’m a loon, just play along and humor me.
As a whole, I’ve generally gotten over my prejudice against turnips, but I do still think of them as somewhat too bitter for my tastes. I guess it was this perception that led me to think about how salt is used to draw the bitterness out of eggplants. Why not do the same with turnips? Really, in the end, it was a very simplified method of pickling the raw turnip, but I wasn’t thinking of that from the start.
I tasted the turnip after an hour or two in the salt, but decided it wasn’t “done” yet. After it sat overnight, I found its texture very interesting, and there was no bitterness of which to speak. Mission accomplished. Or was it?
Ironically, the turnip was now missing some “zip” in the flavor department. Yep, it was really rather bland. After a toss in lemon juice and a spice dusting, I chowed down on what turned out to be one of my favorite (and prettiest) turnip dishes to date. The final medley of flavors was bright and warm, a great wintertime substitution for coleslaw next to a sandwich or burger. Or you can follow my lead and just eat them as a fun afternoon snack!
But here’s my conundrum. What the heck do I call this dish? I settled on Spicy Turnip Straws for the sake of getting this post up instead of delaying it until I had some proverbial light bulb go on in my head. But “Rustic Turnip Coleslaw”, “Indonesian-Style Turnip Pickles”, or “Seasoned Salty Turnip Stix” all held some merit too.
A little help please? Surely you all are a creative bunch that can figure out the most appropriate name for these? And sorry, no, “Wands of Wonder” is one I’ve already contemplated and put aside for fear someone would get the wrong idea…
Spicy Turnip Straws
A Straight from the Farm Original
2 large turnips
1 t. salt
garam masala spice mix*
Slice turnips into thick julienne sticks. Toss with salt and place in a bowl. Place a small plate on top and then a can or mug on top of that to create pressure on the turnip sticks. Chill overnight.
Drain off water from the turnips. Squeeze the lemon over the turnip and toss. Place in serving dish(es) and sprinkle lightly with garam masala and serve immediately. If you want to prepare ahead, just wait to sprinkle on the spice until just before serving. Can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days.
*If you don’t have garam masala on hand, you could use a combination of ground cumin, coriander, cloves, and ginger.