Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Roasted Turnip Risotto

Why do I keep turning to risotto? Chilly weather, ease of preparation, bountiful and delicious results, illusion of creaminess without the dairy and fat… chalk up “gluten-free” with those reasons and it’s very clear why I keep returning to this dish. Risotto is so wonderfully satisfying that it appeases all crowds, meat-eating and bamboo-noshing alike. It’s like a fancy casserole and fills “hot dish” void many of us that grew up in the Midwest crave halfway through winter. Remember the mysteriously yellow but tasty rice dishes from a box that were super creamy, salty and cooked in 5 minutes? That was normal Tuesday for me when I was in grade school. Ok maybe some of you still make those. But this is like a gourmet, farmer’s market-inspired version that you could make with any root vegetable and bring to any holiday dinner or Bo dunk hoe down, meat-and-potato potluck (those might be one and the same depending on your geographic location).

It is probably apparent by now if you’ve read some of my posts, that I am in love with root vegetables. I could hardly discriminate among celery root, beets, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga and radishes. If you have limited experience with any of these (or experience with them that has been corrupted by canned and boiled versions), just know they are some of the most delicious, earthiest knobs of a vegetable that come from the ground. Some people find them ugly and dirty. They must also hate Bob Dylan. The hidden and imperfectly shaped nature of a root makes it much more appealing to me. How humble to live your little veggie life underground, while the fruit you bear takes the stage above. There you are, storing nutrients and life, making sure there is enough sunshine and soul in your fronds or leaves to make so they are attractive enough to be picked. How perfectly selfless and shy…Well okay, I might be slightly romanticizing their bulbous lives, but there is definitely something about them that I adore. Quite obviously.

On the flip side, for those that share my affiliation with root veggies, many of you abandon their greens. If you can eat kale, chard, mustard and dandelion greens, why not radish greens? Beet greens have become more popular with the emergence and popularity of CSAs and local markets, but what about turnip greens? Have you ever tried broccoli or cauliflower leaves? Probably not, because they are mostly ditched before being laid out for purchase. But I assure you, they have a nutritious punch and soft flavor that deserves just has much chance has their roots. How perfectly utopian to prepare a dish that uses both…

Roast them, steam them, mash them or hash them – so many possibilities. In this recipe, turnips are prepared two different ways, combined in the end, and reunited with their greens for a complete use of the plant. >> Cue the music….Beating Drum… African Chorus….”It’s the Circle of Life!”…<< Sweet turnips with salty Miso offset the potential bitterness you risk imparting to a dish when adding some greens. If this ends up being too salty, just add a touch of plain soy or almond milk and a pinch of nutritional yeast to retain the creaminess.

Roasted Turnip Risotto

Serves: 3-4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour


6 oz. Turnip greens
1 ½ c. Turnips, cubed and divided into 2 parts
½ T. Olive oil
Salt and pepper

2-3 c. Vegetable broth
1 T. Olive oil or Earth Balance
½ Medium leek, sliced or chopped
2 Garlic cloves, minced
½ T. Thyme
½ c. Arborio rice
1 T. Miso paste (white or yellow)
Salt and white pepper

¼ c. Walnuts, chopped
Pinch of nutritional yeast
Pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 450ºF. Toss ¾ c. turnips in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven 40-45 minutes until brown and tender. Set aside when done.
In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the turnip greens until almost tender, about 30-45 seconds. Remove from water using tongs and rinse under cold water (or transfer to bowl of ice water to stop from cooking). Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring remaining broth to a low boil over medium-low heat. On a back burner, keep broth warm over low heat and keep a measuring cup nearby.

Melt Earth Balance over medium heat in a large skillet (3-4” deep) and add leeks. Sauté leeks until soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes. Add both the garlic and thyme and cook an additional 30 seconds until garlic becomes fragrant. Add remaining turnips and Arborio rice to skillet and stir well to completely coat with seasonings.

Increase heat to medium high and continue to stir rice another 1 minute. When rice begins to sizzle, add ¾ cup of warm vegetable broth to skillet and stir. Let rice absorb broth and stir occasionally, 10-15 minutes. When rice has absorbed all of the liquid, reduce heat to medium and add another ¾ cup of broth. Stirring occasionally let rice cook another 15-20 minutes until it has absorbed most of the liquid.

While rice cooks, make the walnut topping. Toast walnuts in a pan over medium high heat until they become fragrant and start to deepen in color (I know they’re already brown, but you get it). Remove from heat and transfer to food processor with a pinch of salt and nutritional yeast. Blend until finely crumbled. Set aside.

Returning to the rice, if mixture is not done yet, add another ½ cup of broth and let rice absorb until cooked. Whisk the miso into ½ cup of vegetable broth. Add miso and turnips greens to rice mixture and stir well. Season with small pinch of white pepper. Top with roasted turnips and walnut topping.

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