Sadly, for turnips, people don't hate them, they just ignore them. Other than the occasional turnip (and potato) puree I see every once in a while in magazines, I've never once seen a turnip dish on a real person's table--not even at my grandmother's. I can't remember when I've seen them on a restaurant menu either (although surely now that I've published this, I'll walk into a restaurant and turnip-laced side dishes will stud every entrée, proving definitively to my family that I really just don't notice anything).
Someone must be buying and then eating them, I assume, or the grocery store wouldn't carry them.* I see them in the produce section all the time,looking battered and forlorn next to their super-sized older siblings, the rutabagas (and who's eating those?). Are there gangs of little old Southern ladies cooking them up and eating them on the sly, hidden from the prying eyes of their children and grandchildren?
Root vegetables just don't have the flash of sweet summer corn or pencil-thin asparagus to attract attention to themselves, and they suffer in old-fashioned silence, available and waiting, all year long. Baby turnips, however, demurely shaded by their tender, verdant greens, finally were able to make themselves heard above the general din of kale, collards, and rainbow chard at Amy Hicks' stall at the 17th Street Farmers' Market, last week.
I thought about a Spanish recipe I used to make, a sort of simplified tortilla that works as both a powerhouse of a side dish (combining both starch and vegetable) or a straightforward vegetarian main dish. Turnips weren't included in the original recipe, probably because the greens called for in a more authentic Spanish dish would be grelos, and they aren't grown outside of Spain at all. Their closest taste equivalent here in the US is broccoli rabe (or rapini), and in fact, the grelo plant is simply another member of the brassica rapa family--and that includes both rapini and turnips.
Amy's little turnips turned out to be sweetly tender, almost like a tiny new potato without the starchiness, and exploding with the freshness of springtime. In the recipe below, and simply sliced and sautéed with garlic and olive oil (always my default vegetable preparation), the unjustly overlooked turnip finally captured my imagination and made me think again about the entire spectrum of produce instead of just the seasonal celebrities of the vegetable world I usually chase after.
Recipe after the jump . . .