Market share: A slaw for all seasons

I have always fundamentally believed that anything can be made into a slaw, and root vegetables like the turnip (as well as parsnips and, of course, beets) are no exception.

Photos by Stacey DeWolfe

When I was a kid, we ate turnips three times a year — at Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. I never liked them much, in part because my mom always served them boiled and mashed. To be honest, for most of my teens and 20s, I found mashed foods of any kind repulsive, even when that most comforting of foods, the potato, was involved. And to this day, though exceptions exist, I prefer my potatoes in more solid incarnations. But I digress…

It was only a few years ago, when a gorgeous bundle of baby white turnips showed up in my farm basket, that I realized that it had not, in fact, been turnips that I had attempted to ingest all those years ago. What had been plunked down between the turkey and the candied yams was actually the larger, meatier and mealier cousin to the turnip: the rutabaga.

I have yet to find a way to make rutabaga that I really like, but white turnip — particularly when young — is light in flavour, crisp in texture and really quite delicious, both cooked and raw. What makes the white turnip even more special though, is that, like the beet, it is actually two vegetables in one: the aforementioned white bulbs, and a heap of leafy turnip greens.

I have always fundamentally believed that anything can be made into a slaw, and root vegetables like the turnip (as well as parsnips and, of course, beets) are no exception. At this time of year, when the cool of autumn has set in and the desire to hold summer close is strong, a root vegetable slaw strikes a perfect balance: earthy, fresh, sweet and cool.

As I mentioned in my first column, Slaw and Order, you can use any implement you like to cube, shred or julienne your vegetables — and fruit, for this particular recipe. My trusted sous-chef pulled out the old Cuisinart and “cuised” up four turnips, six

small carrots (primarily for colour), and one large, tart, crisp apple (I recommend Empire, the greatest apple that ever was, but you could also use Granny Smith). To that I added about 1/4 cup of minced chives (you could use green onion) and one minced bird’s eye chili for heat.

As with all slaws, a sweetish dressing is the key, but you have to balance the sweetness with the right amount of salt. I cannot tell you exactly what the right amount of salt is, but you will know when you reach it. I would use a few good shakes (or a large pinch) to start, and work from there. The dressing itself is made from three tablespoons of yogurt, one tablespoon of honey, one of olive oil and one of apple cider vinegar. But before adding the dressing, assess the amount of liquid produced by the vegetables. If the vegetables are too wet, the slaw will be soupy, so strain them accordingly.

The turnip greens are easily dealt with, using an approach similar to what I did with amaranth, and which can be applied to any green. First, wash them and steam them in the water that clings to their leaves. Then remove them and add a little olive oil to a pan, along with an assortment of treats: minced garlic, chopped sundried tomatoes and walnuts. When the savouries mellow, add the greens and toss with a little more apple cider vinegar.

Serves two. 

Read more about Stacey’s culinary adventures on her website, or follow her on Twitter @staceydewolfe

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