While shopping for vegetables at our local market, I recently ran across some great looking Mairübchen, baby turnips sold with their greens still attached. I bought them with the initial idea of serving these as a simple turnip salad, nothing more than sliced turnips in an Italian style vinaigrette. As usual I would have thrown the greens away. But then I remembered something I had read only recently from RussParsons on the LA Times: a very nice article entitled Eat shoots, leaves (requires registration). Looking at the turnip greens I couldn't stop thinking about the following line I had read there: "A veggie's most delicious bits are what often goes in the can.". What to do with those greens?
Eating them simply as greens would have been the obvious choice, but why not try and combine them to the turnips themselves? The idea of having the whole vegetable on a plate tickled my phantasy and so I started to toy with the idea of a salad with cold turnip slices and hot sauteed greens. Daniela, my wife, was not exactly enthusiastic about my culinary curiosity. Was I sure we could eat those greens? Was I going to poison us?
She seemed less doubtful once I decided to add pancetta and nuts to the salad. While she definitely is the more careful between the two of us, she's almost as curious as I am when it comes to food. And she loves crispy pancetta. Still, it was with some anticipation that I served my salad to my very own in-house critic. After a first bite, she complained that there were not enough greens in the salad, and could she please have more. I guess I passed the critics test, and without any need to poison her.
I found the salad even better than expected. The cold crunch of the turnips perfectly contrasted the hot bitter greens, while the pancetta and the pecans added a bit of taste explosions on their own. As an afterthought these two together scream maple syrup in my mind. Next time I guess I'll slightly modify the recipe to use a maple syrup flavored vinaigrette. Or actually, if you have any other idea on how to include this ingredient in the recipe drop me a line below. Suggestions are extremely welcome.
Hot/Cold Turnip salad with pancetta and pecans
serves 4 as an appetizer
4 small white turnips (called Mairübchen in German) with their greens attached,
a handfull of shelled peacans, halved or roughly chopped,
40-50g pancetta or good quality dry-cured bacon, cut into lardons,
1 garlic clove, peeled,
olive oil, salt, pepper and vinegar (possibly Sherry vinegar),
a little balsamic vinegar.
Remove the greens from the turnips, wash them, and prepare them for cooking removing the hard central stem and keeping the leaves. Tear the leaves with your hands into rather large pieces and set aside.
Peel the turnips and slice them as thin as possible (use a mandoline if you have one). Put into an iced water bath
Toast the pecan nuts in a pan or in your oven (set at 150°C) till they just start to brown ad set aside. In a non stick pan, saute the bacon till crunchy on the outside. Remove from the pan and set aside, reserving the rendered fat.
Prepare a simple vinaigrette with olive oil, salt, pepper and vinegar.
Heat the bacon fat in the same pan. Once hot add the garlic clove and saute till golden, then remove it from the pan. Add the greens to the pan, season them with salt and just a splash of balsamic vinegar and cook till they're wilted.
Remove the sliced turnips from the iced water bath, dry them with a kitchen towel and toss with the vinaigrette.
Arrange the turnip slices and their greens in a mound and sprinkle bacon and peacans on top. Serve and enjoy!