I discovered Japanese Turnips in the summer of 2001. Migliorelli’s, one of my favorite farmers at the greenmarket regularly brings in stacks and stacks of bunches of the little white orbs with their dark green leaves. One day at the World Trade Center Tuesday market, I picked up a bunch and asked the stand manager, Yoshi, how to fix them. “Oh, you can eat them raw,” he said, as he rubbed one with a piece of paper towel and handed it to me. “Try it.” It crunched as I bit into it, surprised by how sweet it tasted. “Just sauté them in some butter or oil if you’ve got to cook them,” he said. So that’s what I did. We’ve been enjoying the results ever since.
[Here’s some more to the WTC story: on 9/11/01, all the farm stands were set up along the edge of the drive that ran alongside Church Street. They were there when the planes slammed into the World Trade Center, and many, Yoshi among them, were injured by falling debris. Glad to say he recovered and came back to Migliorelli’s tent in Union Square. He’s now retired to upstate.] —ChefJune
4 as a side dish
Japanese turnips with their greens
2 to 3
cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil (I use the stuff that comes in 3-liter cans at Whole Foods for cooking)
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
dried herbes de Provence
A variety of liquid seasonings to taste (see last step)
Untie the bunch of turnips in the sink. Discard the rope and spray cold water over them to wash thoroughly. You will probably need several changes of water. Make sure to get all the sand and grit out of the crevices. Drain them and separate the turnips from the greens at the base of the stems. Dry the turnips very well, then trim off any bruises and cut horizontally into ¼-inch slices.
Shake as much water from the greens as possible and chiffonade them. Set them aside and discard the leggy stems.
Heat a large sauté pan and when it’s warm, add about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Make sure it covers the whole surface. Add the turnips and cook until nicely browned on both sides. Don’t be impatient, it’s best to turn them only once. Add the herbes de Provence and the salt and pepper. (If it’s summer, you might use fresh herbes de Provence rather than dried. In this case you’ll need 1 ½ teaspoons of the mixed herbs.)
Now add all the turnip tops, the garlic, and about ¼ cup liquid. (Our go-to choices include dry vermouth, half-and-half low-sodium Tamari and water, Champagne vinegar. You can use your own imagination.) Cover the pan and allow the greens to wilt down (5 to 8 minutes). Remove the lid for the last few minutes to evaporate the liquid.
If you like, you can top with mustard Panko breadcrumbs.