Today: Alexandra unearths a new kind of veggie burger.
As a C.S.A. subscriber, I accept that at various points during the growing season I will feel overloaded by something in my weekly share. Radishes, zucchini, and dark, leafy greens come to mind. Finding creative uses for these bounties is a challenge, but almost as trying for me is the opposite scenario—when I receive just a handful of something: the odd kohlrabi bulb, a single summer squash, a small bunch of turnips. How to transform these small quantities into substantial meals is a constant challenge.
Turnips, in particular, trouble me. My most recent C.S.A. share arrived with just 4 small turnips: smooth white orbs with bright greens intact. I turned, as I often do this time of year, to Chez Panisse Vegetables, then contemplated my options. Should I sauté them in duck or goose fat (of course!) until well browned and tender? Braise them with carrots, butter, and water? Roast them until caramelized?
While each of these preparations sounded simple and lovely, none would have left me surfeited. I can eat a sheet pan of roasted vegetables alone; four roasted turnips would disappear in two minutes. I needed my turnips to do more.
Inspired by a recipe for beet burgers that called for puréeing raw beets and carrots with farro and other seasonings, I gave my turnips the same treatment: Into the food processor they went, roots and greens together, with garlic, scallions, herbs and rice. Out of the processor, I folded in fresh breadcrumbs to bind everything together and I added seeds for texture. I portioned out five patties—not bad for a modest bunch of turnips—then began browning them.
I was certain the burgers would be good—the raw mixture tasted sweet with an earthy bite—but as the patties sizzled in the pan, I couldn’t help but feel I had done a disservice to the turnips, puréeing them to an unrecognizable state, masking their flavor with buns, pickles, and hummus. Had Alice Waters taught me nothing? Should I have simply halved them and thrown them on the table with butter, flaky sea salt, and good bread?
But as the patties emerged, vibrant green, studded with seeds, beautifully crisp, I started to perk up: One bite of these burgers assured me this preparation had celebrated these young roots in all their glory. Until I find myself overloaded with turnips, I’ll happily set refinement aside.
Choosing and storing your turnips:
This time of year, look for small, white Japanese turnips with smooth, firm skins and bright, tender greens intact. Trim greens from roots and store each in bags in the refrigerator. The roots will last longer than the greens, but try to use both within a week.
Prepping your turnips:
Turnips can be dirty, so if necessary, rinse them under water to remove sand and grit or soak them in a bowl of cold water until the dirt settles to bottom. Small, tender Japanese turnips do not need to be peeled.
Cooking your turnips:
Most simply, turnips can be steamed until tender, then tossed with butter, salt, pepper, and herbs. Or roasted with olive oil and salt until caramelized. Or braised, roots and greens together, with butter, water, and salt. Or roasted and puréed into a creamy mash. Similar to radishes, though a bit less spicy, turnips can be thinly sliced and served tartine-style with bread, butter, and salt.
Here are a few more ideas:
Makes 5 patties
3 to 4 small turnips with greens (12 to 14 ounces)
1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh breadcrumb
1 to 2 cloves garlic
Herbs, whatever you have
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 cup cooked rice
1/3 cup seeds, such as a mix of millet, sesame, poppy, and flax
Freshly cracked pepper
Grapeseed or canola oil for frying
Buns or naan, hummus or tahini sauce, and/or pickles for serving
Photos by Alexandra Stafford