Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I’ve written a lot about vegetable guilt. You know. When you overbuy at the Farmer’s Market, or over plant in your vegetable garden? And despite all your good intentions, you just can’t cook your way through all the veggies on hand. Been there, right?
However there’s another, more insidious, type of vegetable guilt that I rarely admit out loud. But think about every time I peel a carrot, trim a leek or core a tomato.
This guilt has been rolling around in my brain for about 20 years. It all started when my friend and neighbor at the time, Bonita, casually mentioned to me that while visiting her friend in Vancouver, she had been shocked that her friend was throwing away all of her vegetable trimmings instead of saving them , washing them, freezing them and then finally using them when they reached a critical mass to make vegetable stock.
At the time I nodded my head, and said something like “Incredible! What was she thinking? Throwing all the valuable stock base away?” But in reality I was thinking “I sure hope Bonita doesn’t decide to go through my garbage after lunch.”
I didn’t really realize it then, but Bonita was one of the most organized (obsessive?) friends I would ever have. She had very high standards, not only for her friends, but also for herself. 20 years on, most of my kitchen drawers in Rome and Umbria still bear the imprint of her origizational skills and expert labeling. So thank you for that Bonita!
But besides neatly bagged twine and carefully rolled extension cords, I’ve also got Bonita’s voice inside my head almost every time I cook. “Mmm....are you really going to just throw those carrot peels away?” I’m sure she doesn’t even remember that original conversation. But I do.
While I have never gotten it together enough to freeze my scraps for broth, I do think twice while trimming vegetables.
Which lead me to today’s recipe.
I bought the most beautiful bunch of baby turnips the other day. And there I was, trimming off the big leafy greens. And there was Bonita, in my head, as always, as I was about to throw them into the trash. “Are you sure you want to do that?”
Pulling my hand back from the garbage bin, I nibbled on one of the bright green leaves and realized that they tasted almost exactly like the cima di rape that we eat in Bari. Which I guess is exactly what they were, since cima di rape translates as turnip tops.
So rather than just steam the turnips, which I was intending to do, I decided to saute them, along with the chopped greens. And cook them up exactly how they do in Bari, when using them to top orecchiete. Garlic, hot pepper and anchovies. It was pretty, it was delicious and - better yet - I hadn’t thrown away any vegetable trimmings.
Are you listening Bonita? Because I sure am.
turnips + greens
2 bunches of baby turnips (about 10 total) with greens still attached
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 anchovy filets
1/2 tsp salt
Separate the turnips from the turnip tops.
Trim off the little root end of the turnip, and clean them well. Cut into quarters.
Rinse off the turnip tops and roughly chop.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan big enough to hold everything.
Add the pepper flakes, and stir. Add the turnips, stir and cook for about 6 minutes. When they start to brown, add the garlic and anchovies. Stir, breaking up the anchovies, but make sure the garlic doesn’t brown.
Add the greens. Don’t worry if they seem to overwhelm the pan, they will cook down fast. Add 1/4 cup of water, the salt, and put a lid on the pan and let the greens wilt for about five minutes.
Lift lid and stir well. Taste for salt.
Since these are baby turnips, the greens should be done at this point, but taste do make sure. You don’t want to over cook, or else the turnips will get mushy.
Serve hot, or at room temperature, with an extra drizzle of olive oil.