Turnip and Pear Soup

January 29, 2008

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

 

How can someone, especially someone who purports to be interested in healthy eating and vegetables, reach the ripe old age of 40-something and still never have tasted a turnip?  Shocking, I know; but yes, indeed, that someone is moi.  

I blame it all on Modern American Drama. One of the first courses I took as a university student, it was taught by my mentor, John Ditsky , for whom I harbored a 20 year-long crush (but that’s neither here nor there).

Truly, since my undergrad days, whenever I’d think of turnips, all that came to mind was that scene in which Estragon asks Vladimir for a carrot but gets handed a turnip instead–and the turnip, having resided in his filthy coat pocket for who knows how long, is not exactly an appetizing substitute.  So, for many years, just the thought of turnips would throw me into a bout of existential angst. I believed turnips to be the unwanted progeny of carrots.  Or perhaps parsnips. Or, on the other hand, just anything.  But then, I thought, what is anything, anyway?  And aren’t we all just nothing waiting for something? It was just a turnip, after all, no more than that.  Nothing to be done, nothing to be done. . .oh, when will He arrive?  When?? Must. . . take. . . off. . . this. . . .boot! [She exits.  End of Act I.]

Soooooo. . . . back to the turnips.  When our organic produce box arrived this past week and I spied a kilo bag of turnips, I was thrown into a panic.  What to do, what to do? Would there be a way out of this mess? (“Yes, you had us rather worried for a bit, Mum.  And why do you keep talking like that? Who is this Godot person, anyway?”). 

Well, I decided it was time to Confront the Turnip.  Like it or not, I was going to cook with these babies! In order to survive the ordeal, I decided to start small, something easy and relatively foolproof.  Soup!

One of our favorites here in the DDD household is a fabulous Parsnip and Pear soup from Flip Shelton’s Aussie cookbook, Green (and since turnips are the illegitimate offshoots of parsnips, it gave me an idea . . . ).  I had been both surprised and delighted by the fabulous melange of smooth, sweet, spicy, and savory in that soup. Shelton’s recipe was extremely simple, yet the final result exalted the lowly roots and fruit to a level beyond the sum of their parts. I thought, what about a similar recipe for turnips with pears? 

As usual, we had a bunch of overripe pears in the house, so there was no problem finding the fundamental ingredients. And it also occurred to me that this would be a very suitable entry to Sweetnicks‘ weekly ARF/5-A-Day  roundup, so it will also be my contribution to that event this week.

After a bit of digging around for some kind of turnip and pear soup recipe, I found something that sounded appealing in my old Sundays at Moosewood cookbook, called, oddly enough, Turnip and Pear Soup.  The challenge began!

The soup was ridiculously easy to prepare, and took only about 30 minutes from start to finish (including peeling and chopping).  It was warming and really quite tasty.  While I know that turnips are not to everyone’s taste, if you’re feeling adventurous (or existential–I mean, who knows when we’ll next have the chance to taste a turnip?), then go ahead and give this one a try. 

And, well, if it turns out you don’t like it, I suppose you could always serve it to Pozzo and Lucky.  They’ll eat anything. 

Turnip and Pear Soup (adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant)

turnipearsoup.jpg

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Quick and Easy Tofu Masala

December 20, 2007

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed today, what with an order for 56 frosted cupcakes due by noon, as well as an article on cooking with avocado expected by this afternoon.  Yikes.  Therefore, today’s Holidailies post will be short and sweet.  Or, in this case, short and spicy.

This recipe for Tofu Masala is quick and easy, despite the long list of spices that need to be ground into a curry. I’ve adapted the recipe from the fabulous cookbook, Green, by Flip Shelton.  When I saw it in Chapters, I loved the modern, clean look of the book and bought it on impulse, but must say it’s become one of my favorites because of the recipes. 

Maybe it’s my lifelong enchantment with Australia (and New Zealand) that drew me to it, but the book itself is a definite winner, filled with fresh, delicious, quick dishes that have, so far, always come out just right.

This recipe was one of my first ventures into homemade curries, and I was a bit intimidated by all the spices the first time I made it; my mother’s spice cupboard, in contrast, contained exactly one jar each of garlic salt, paprika, onion salt, and white pepper.  All I knew about fenugreek at the time was that it’s commonly used in Ayurvedic cooking, and is supposed to help keep blood sugar levels even (enough of a reason right there to try it, I guess).  But the spice mixture here–and it’s a powerfully hot mix, so beware if you’re timid about hot spice–is the perfect blend to offset the otherwise bland tofu, the al dente vegetables, and the brown basmati rice. 

Sorry I don’t have a photo of this one; we made it at my last cooking class and consumed it before I remembered to snap a picture.  I’ll add one in next time we eat it over here at D,D & D. 

Easy Masala Curry with Veggies and Tofu

This dish is truly a snap to make, despite the long list of spices.  And you can alter the mix of vegetables to your taste, or according to what’s on hand in the fridge!

1/2-1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

 4 cloves garlic, chopped

1-inch piece of ginger, minced

2 T. chopped cilantro

1 tsp. coriander

1 tsp. whole black peppercorns

1 tsp. black mustard seeds

1 tsp. fenugreek

1 tsp. ground turmeric

1 tsp. Sucanat or 5 drops stevia

Pinch sea salt

Juice of one lemon

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

About 400 g. (1 lb.) firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed

1 cup green beans, cut in half, or green peas

1/2 red pepper, chopped

2 small Japanese eggplants, cut in disks

1 cup button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

4 medium tomatoes, chopped 

Place the jalapeno, garlic, ginger, cilantro, spices, sucanat, salt and lemon juice in a small food processor or coffee grinder and blend until you have a paste.  Set aside. 

Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add the onions.  Saute for two minutes, or until just soft. Add the chili paste and stir until the onion is well coated. Add the tofu, and stir to coat.  Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Serve over brown basmati rice. Makes 4-6 servings.