CSA 2008, Week Nineteen.

Since I refuse to turn on the heat quite yet, I’ve been shuffling around the apartment in a highly stylish toga I’ve fashioned out of a quilt I made years ago.  (It’s a glamorous look, one I highly recommend, though I must add that it’s hard to pull off.)  As I considered adding a cashmere scarf to increase my sartorial credibility, I realized that the contents of this week’s CSA box could warm me up in a far more satisfying way.  My list of possible components for a comforting, cold-weather meal included:

  • Acorn squash
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Collard greens
  • Daikon radish
  • Delicata winter squash
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
  • Purple-top turnips
  • Onions
  • Salad greens

The first thing that came to mind was, of course, mashed potatoes — a classic, yes?  Regardless of its time-honored standing, I wanted more out of a meal than just a couple smashed tubers mixed up with a shake of salt and a sprinkle of milk.  The temperature outside is resolutely giving up its battle with frost; I knew I needed something more than the norm to warm me, so I decided to do a little research.  I spent a good portion of the afternoon nestled amongst pillows on the sofa — toga, scarf and all — cookbooks and magazines strewn about me, until I came upon a recipe for colcannon.  A traditional Irish dish, it’s mashed potatoes dialed to eleven with the inclusion of steamed cabbage, leeks and bacon.

While I could have easily made a dinner out of colcannon alone, the turnips were calling my name relentlessly from the fridge, taunting me with their swirly purple skins.  I didn’t want to do anything too complicated — the turnip is already a but under-appreciated, as vegetables go, and the last thing I wanted to do was bury their subdued bitterness.  The recipe I chose is a winner not only for its featured ingredient, but also for its completely foolproof nature.  The most difficulty I faced was in keeping my patience under control while my oven did all of the work caramelizing the turnips.  Well, that, and peeling the purple of off the turnips themselves; more than anything it felt almost like a sin, getting rid of that wonderful color.  But let me tell you, it was worth ever scrape of my peeler…

Colcannon, adapted from Gourmet
Makes four portions.

2 ½ pounds baking potatoes
1 cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup milk, scalded
½ pound bacon, cooked and chopped
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits and softened
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into one-inch pieces. In a saucepan cover the potatoes with salted water and simmer them, covered, for fifteen minutes, or until they are tender.
  2. While the potatoes are simmering, in a steamer set over boiling water steam the cabbage and the leeks for five minutes, or until tender.
  3. Drain the potatoes in a colander, force them through a ricer or the medium disk of a food mill into a bowl, and stir in milk, butter, cabbage, leeks and bacon.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Caramelized Turnips, from Chez Panisse Vegetables

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.  Turnips that are sufficiently young and tender need only be rinsed and dried before cooking; older purple-top turnips will need to be peeled.  Cut the turnips into halves, or quarters if they are small.  Big ones should be cut in half lengthwise and the halves sliced into wedges.
  2. Toss the turnips in a bowl with a generous splash of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Spread them out in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast them for about ten minutes, then toss them once (if tossed or turned more frequently, they tend to break apart as they become tender).
  3. Rose for about five minutes more and check for doneness — depending on the water content of the turnips, they can take from fifteen to thirty minutes.  The turnips are done when they are fork tender and nicely caramelized.
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