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A Sweet Use for Bitter Greens

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Even if you’re doing your best to cook root-to-leaf and nose-to-tail, there are probably still some edible bits you’re missing. Every other Sunday, we'll focus on one overlooked scrap, and show you how to turn what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure.

Today: Soften sharp greens with a sweet dressing.

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Envision a turnip and you are not picturing a sexy vegetable. Your lips aren’t curling up at the edges like they do when you think of purple asparagus, pea shoots, or the season’s first punnets of strawberries. But, I’d argue this is because you are thinking of January turnips: the root vegetable storage crops we diligently add to mashes and stews in our devotion to seasonal eating. We’re rarely excited about them because, the truth is, they can sometimes be tough, stringy, and bitter. Let’s be honest though: Don’t we all get a little bitter in the depths of winter?

Spring turnips are like another vegetable altogether: They’re small, creamy white, and crisp, with just the right amount of bite to them. Plus, unlike winter storage turnips, spring turnips come with a free gift with purchase: their greens. And you don’t want that freebie to go to waste, so separate the roots from the leaves as soon as you get home and store them separately in your refrigerator.

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More: With a bunch of turnips on hand, you’re well on your way to making 5 different dishes.

Turnip Greens

You can use turnips greens like any other greens, but you’d be remiss not to devote the tops from at least one bunch to Fairmount_market’s Turnip Green Gomae. Gomae (or goma-ae) is a Japanese dish, often vegetables, dressed with a sweet sesame dressing. Usually, you'll come across spinach gomae, but turnip greens' slight sharpness are a perfect match for the sweet dressing.

You’ll want to grind your sesame seeds really well for this—either with a mortar and pestle, a spice grinder, or, my inessential tool of choice, a sesame seed grinder. I found that the tablespoon of mirin called for in the recipe did plenty of sweetening for me, so I dialed back the granulated sugar when I made it (taste the dressing as you go to establish your own preferences). And, it will depend on the size of your bunch of turnips, but I found this recipe made enough dressing for me to coat two bunches worth of greens.

Turnip Green Gomae by Fairmount_market 

Serves 2 as an appetizer

2 tablespoons roasted black sesame seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 bunch turnip greens (or beet greens or spinach)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.  

Know of a great recipe in the Food52 archives that uses scraps (anything from commonly discarded produce parts to stale bread to bones and more)? Tell me about it in the comments!

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: cooking with scraps, turnip greens, turnip tops