Every late summer for the past several years my Concord, MA friend, Judith, has invited me for a day of produce shopping at her favorite local farm stand. Late summer most years means the end of August, the height of tomato season. This year, however, Judith and I didn’t get our trek planned until mid-September. The tomatoes by then were on the wane, yielding center stage at Hutchins Organic Farm to their apples, squashes, dark leafy greens, and various root vegetables.
Which is just fine with me. I admit I need a little attitude tweaking when seasons change; I find it hard to give up the warmth and ease of summer even for a crisp New England fall. But the bounty of a farm stand – any season’s bounty – can usually hasten the adjustment, and Hutchins’ overflowing bins of produce did the trick.
Everything I brought home was delicious but my favorites, hands down, were the turnips– tender-skinned Japanese white turnips and a softball-sized yellow turnip, or rutabaga. Turnips white or yellow are humble and unassuming, so lowly in fact that they’re often passed over for showier offerings with better names.
But the next time you pass an organic rutabaga, stop. Pick one up. Let its hint of apricot yellow flesh make you pause and consider how delicious it would be when mashed and served with your favorite fall stew. Rutabaga makes a complex and peppery alternative to mashed potatoes, holding its own with hearty braised meats or even a ragout of mushrooms and kale.
Japanese turnips, the size and shape of chicken eggs, don’t even need peeling and can be sliced and eaten raw. Toss these slices with a sliced tart apple, some toasted walnuts, and a lemon juice vinaigrette and you have a great lunch salad.
But if you feel like cooking them, as I did, try this Cream of Turnip Soup. Please use the recipe as a guideline only. The best thing about soup is it can be tweaked to suit your taste and whatever you’ve found at your market. If you have turnips, celeriac, and parsnips, by all means turn this recipe into a Cream of White Root Vegetable Soup. If you have a carrot or two, add them and give the soup the littlest blush of color.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
2 – 3 lbs of white turnips (or any combination of white root vegetables) peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 medium russet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
5 – 6 cups low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup whipping cream
Heat oil in heavy large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until onion is soft and translucent. Add turnips and potato and sauté 2 minutes. Add 5 cups broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
Puree soup with stick blender, or in conventional blender in batches, until very smooth. Use the last cup of broth to thin the soup if it seems very thick at this point. Season to taste with salt and pepper. After pureeing, the soup can be cooled and either saved for the next day or frozen.
When ready to serve, return pureed soup to stockpot and slowly heat it through. (If frozen, thaw first.) When heated, add milk and cream. Bring to simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve. A homemade garlic crouton makes a nice garnish.
Jane graduated from Simmons College in 1983 with a degree in English Literature, the desire to write novels, and the promise of a job with one of Boston's premier catering companies. Jane has been a caterer, corporate party planner, and baker, but now currently writes full-time. She is at work on her third novel, a weekly food blog , and a food memoir: TATTOOED WITH FOOD (a life indelibly inked by cooking and eating).