Monday, December 26, 2011

More Than Soup

The Tuesday after the holiday of Sukkot, there were no fresh vegetables in the kitchen. Coming off of a week-long vacation, there had been no time to make an order and stock the pantry shelves. Now generally, our daily menu includes a protein, a carbohydrate and a vegetable. Serving a vegetable is a little difficult when you have no fresh vegetables available. Luckily, we have a freezer and that freezer is often stocked with frozen vegetables-peas and carrots and corn and such. We didn't have enough to serve the frozen vegetables as a dish on their own, but we threw the veggies into a big pot and cooked them to death (which is how the head of the kitchen likes them- don't know why, don't ask questions) and then mixed them with potatoes to supplement. So, lunch was a bit carb heavy that day. It could be worse. In fact I find the combination of potatoes, peas and carrots to be quite comforting. It reminds me of my mother.
My mother is a child psychologist and works more than pretty much any other person I know (with the possible exception of my sister who has inherited her workaholic tendencies). She (my mother, that is) has a small office in the back of the house, and many of my memories from childhood involve running from the top floor (family zone), passed the closed doors of her office to the kitchen (family zone) as quickly and as quietly as I could so as not to disturb her patients. But no matter how busy my mother was, no matter how many patients she was seeing that day, she always made dinner. Somehow, she always found time to put something up in between clients, and we always found time to sit down together. Sometimes she made broiled chicken, sometimes, when she had more time, we ate shnitzel, or a lasagna she had thrown together earlier in the day and sometimes, when she was really busy, we used to eat mashed potatoes with peas and carrots. Much like we do in the kitchen, she would boil some potatoes and then throw in some frozen peas and carrots and mash. Only, unlike in the kitchen, she would add a nice pat of butter into the mix and I am convinced that this is what made the dish. It was one of my favorite suppers. During the cold and dark Chicago winters there was nothing quite like a warm bowl of mushy carbohydrate, rich with butter.
My parents have been visiting for the past week and half and it has been lovely. However, that also means that a) I have been a bit MIA (meant to comment on your post, Molly. Sorry!) and b) that I haven't been cooking much. Mostly it has been restaurant, eat with friends, restaurant, friends, etc. It's nice to get a small break from the kitchen. But, one evening, my parents were off doing something with my sister and I had an order to fill, so I found myself alone in my kitchen, hungry, but with not much time to prepare dinner. What I did have was a few small turnips and some really good bread. So I winged it. Earlier that day I had seen a recipe for Turnip Puree on Food52 and was inspired. I didn't really follow checker's recipe, but I did get the idea from her. I diced the turnips, smashed a few cloves of garlic and then just let them hang out over a low flame with some melted butter, salt and pepper. When they were soft, I added a dash of ground mustard and mashed. I ate the mash warm, slathered over good, fresh crusty bread and it was good. Very good. Just as good as potatoes with peas and carrots. The turnips were somehow simultaneously sweet and bitter, nicely offset by the richness of the butter and the tang of mustard. Later my mother stopped by and had a taste. I'm proud to say she liked it too.

Turnip Mash
Inspired by checker's Turnip Puree on Food52

3 smallish turnips, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
a pat of butter
salt, pepper
a dash of ground mustard
good, crusty bread

1. Put the pat of butter is a small saucepan over low heat. When melted, add the turnips, garlic and some salt and pepper. Cover the saucepan.
2. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the turnips look like they are getting dry, add a bit more butter. This is not likely as turnips release quite a bit of water.
3. When the turnips are soft, add a dash of ground mustard. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Mash roughly with a fork. It's ok if there are bits of whole turnip or garlic. It builds character, as my dad might say.
4. Eat over good bread.

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