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Julia Shanks – The Perennial Chef

April 10, 2013
by Greg Georgaklis

Julia ShanksToday I’m happy to welcome Julia Shanks for a guest post on our Farmers To You Community Blog. Julia is a renowned writer, chef, and advocate for eating locally. Her  book, The Farmer’s Kitchen, is an excellent resource to cooking, storing, and enjoying local foods. So much so, Michelle Obama cited it in her book American Grown!

On April 20th, Julia, NOFAMass, and Farmers To You are partnering on a workshop in making creative, fun, meals with local spring foods. We hope you can join us!

Here’s the link to information on the NOFAMass website.

Here’s the link to the event on Facebook to share with your friends… hint, hint!

But enough of those details – on to the food! Julia sent this post for our community as a taste of what’s to come in the workshop. Enjoy!

Spring Cooking: Tasty Turnips

It’s that time of year again… when the skies and temperatures say ‘spring’, but the farmers are still saying ‘winter.’  It’s a few more weeks until we see truly spring crops, like peas, radishes and lettuces.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t still eat local produce… whether it’s enjoying the winter storage roots, like potatoes, turnips or squash, or feasting on sweet corn that was frozen at its peak in summer.

You caught that, didn’t you? I said “enjoying the winter storage roots.” Maybe you would have believed me back in November when they first showed up for the year. Now you’re giving me the stink-eye.

For the past few years, I’ve been on a mission to help folks better support local farmers by eating locally grown and produced foods.  I wrote a cookbook (The Farmer’s Kitchen) and often present 25 Tips for Going Local without Going Crazy.  I encourage people to join a CSA or shop at the Farmers’ Market. We love knowing our farmers and having that connection to the land, but honestly, it sometimes can be a challenge.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard disgruntled CSA subscribers complain, “If I get one more bunch of kale (or kohlrabi or turnips)…”   Or this time of year, when we’re chomping at the bit for Spring.

Farmers to You offers one more option – you get all the benefit of supporting local farmers (and, of course, eating the best quality produce possible) without having the restrictions of a CSA.  And unlike the farmers’ markets, you know what’s available in advance of picking up your order.

But back to the issue at hand: we still need to address all those storage roots.  The truth is, we live in a northern clime … and some things just grow really well here, like kale, turnips and other winter roots.  And they’re wonderful… though perhaps you just need a few more recipes to get you through the last flashes of winter veggies before the true Spring harvest arrives.

Turnips can be served raw in a salad or on a crudité platter with a nice dip.  They can be roasted (see below) or pureed into a soup.  Oh, the possibilities!

Roast Turnips

Serve as a side dish to braised short ribs, salmon or pork chops.

1 Macomber or other large turnip, to yield 2 – 3 cups diced
1 – 2 Tbs butter
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 crisp apple salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Peel turnip and cut into ¾-inch cubes.
3. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, just to soften.
4. Toss the butter with the turnips. Season with salt and pepper. Spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven.
5. Roast the turnips for 20 minutes.
6. While they’re roasting, core the apple and cut it into a ½-inch dice. Do not peel it.
7. After 20 minutes, add the apple to the turnips. Toss them together to make sure the apples get a little butter coating. Roast for 5 minutes more.

Great on its own or garnished with scallions, tarragon and/or lobster meat.

1 recipe Roasted Turnips (above)
1 quart chicken stock or broth
¼ cup heavy cream
1 small leek, white and light green parts, cut and washed, or 3 scallions
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large soup pot, combine turnip base, chicken stock and leek. Simmer for 20 minutes.
2. Purée in a blender (in two parts if necessary) until smooth. Add cream.
3. Return to pot to keep warm until ready to serve.