As a kid, my mom didn’t allow a lot of processed and sugary foods into our kitchen and so when I’d go to my friend’s house, I was always fascinated (obsessed is probably more like it) with all the sugary breakfast cereals, and especially the Oreo cookies. As much as I complained about our junk food-free lifestyle as a kid, as an adult, I’ve turned out much like my mom and barely ever buy processed foods because of all the unpronounceable ingredients, the unlabeled GMOs, and the bulky packaging which for the most part ends up in landfill sites. Besides, I find it way more fun to make my own.
I’m generally not a fan of turnip, but I’m crazy about Hakurei turnips. Hakurei are the caviar of the turnip family. They have a tender, almost creamy yet crunchy texture that makes them a joy to snack on raw, straight up out of the ground. They have a gentle taste with only a hint of the robust turnip flavor that many of us find unappealing. In some ways, they are more like a mild radish than a turnip. Best of all, you can eat the whole plant because their leafy green tops are flavorful and full of nutrients. We didn’t plant any of our own this year, but one of our neighboring organic farms, Bahner Farm had a gloriously large and plentiful patch and were kind enough to harvest some for me. What a treat!
You’re unlikely to find Hakurei turnips in most grocery stores but if you have a CSA share with a local farmer or if you go to a farmer’s market, you will probably find them easily. Don’t pass them up!!
In this recipe, I’ve glazed the turnips with a bit of maple syrup and sesame oil and pan-fried them along with some shiitake mushrooms, the two pair very nicely together. I always add some of the finely sliced green turnip tops to this dish, to add flavor, vitamins, and color. Served on a mound of buckwheat soba noodles, this makes a light and healthy summer meal that is quick and easy to prepare. If you’re extra brave, you can even try making your own homemade soba noodles! Bon appétit!
Maple-Glazed Hakurei Turnip and Shiitake on Soba Noodles
About 3/4 pound of Hakurei turnip (minus the leaves)
A handful of Hakurei turnip leaves (about a dozen leaves)
2 oz shiitake mushrooms (about 8 medium-sized mushrooms)
1/4 cup light, un-toasted sesame oil (see modified instructions below if using dark toasted sesame oil)
1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 pound of buckwheat soba noodles
2 Tbsp tamari or shoyu sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar (or mirin)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
Optional: fresh cilantro and sesame seeds for garnish
Wash the turnips and leaves well. Finely slice the handful of turnip leaves. (Place the rest of the leaves aside to use in another dish). Cut the turnips into bite-sized pieces. If they are small, you can simply cut them in half. If they are larger, cut them into quarters or roughly 3/4 inch cubes. Remove the tough stems from the shiitake mushrooms (I put mine in a freezer bag to make stock later). Slice the shiitake tops thinly.
In a skillet, warm 2 Tbsp of the light sesame oil over medium heat. (If using dark, toasted sesame oil, it has a much stronger flavor so use 2 Tbsp butter or olive oil instead of sesame oil for this part of the recipe. Use the dark sesame oil only in the dressing for the noodles). Add the chopped turnips, mushrooms, and salt into the warmed oil and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the 1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup and 2 Tbsp of water. After about 5 minutes, the water will have evaporated and the turnips and mushrooms will be nicely glazed. At this point, add the sliced turnip greens and cook until wilted and dark green, about 1 more minute. Remove from heat.
While you prepare the glazed turnips and mushrooms, place a large pot filled with 8 cups of water on high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the soba noodles. Cook according to package directions (usually they are done in about 7 minutes). Do not overcook the noodles. As soon as they are done, drain all the water out and rinse the noodles in cold water to remove excess starch (this gives the noodles a lovely texture and ensures they won't clump). If the noodles are too cold after rinsing, quickly dunk them in a fresh pot of boiling water.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the remaining 2 Tbsp sesame oil, the tamari or shoyu sauce, the rice vinegar, and the fish sauce. Stir well and then add the drained noodles, tossing gently to coat the noodles well.
Serve the noodles with the glazed turnips and mushrooms and garnish with a little cilantro and sesame seeds.
Yield: 2 servings
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Video Webcast (On Location). In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.
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