I started learning English when I was 8 years old. My parents enrolled me in after-school lessons that took place at a private high school called The English School. In my first two years there, my teachers spoke Greek, so they would explain things that we learned in a language we understood. Towards the end of my second year, though, I found out that starting the following year, my teachers would only speak English. I was terrified. How would they be able to explain things to me? It took one lesson that following year to ease my fears. I hadn’t realized that I had already learned enough English to be able to communicate with the teacher.
One day, our exercise revolved around a fairy tale called “The Enormous Turnip.” It’s an old Russian fable of a farmer who plants a turnip that grows so large that he can’t pull it out of the ground. He calls his wife to help and then progressively more and more people and animals come to help them pull it out. It’s not until the tiny mouse joins them that they are able to finally pull the turnip out of the ground.
We read the story in class and we all had one question: What the hell is a turnip? We had never seen or eaten one. There wasn’t even a Greek word for it. The teacher struggled to explain that it was a root vegetable like a carrot but round and purple-white. It took a couple of decades for me to finally eat a turnip and when I did, I loved it.
Its pungent, almost medicinal smell is tempered by a sweetness that is especially brought out by roasting it or sautéing it. This recipe is simple but it creates a really flavorful side dish that can accompany either meat or seafood.
Miso-Glazed Turnips – Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit
1 pound small turnips, trimmed, scrubbed, cut into 1” wedges (peeled or unpeeled)
2 tablespoons white miso
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Combine turnips, miso, butter, sugar and water in a medium skillet.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook turnips, turning occasionally, until they are tender and liquid is evaporated.
Once all the liquid has cooked off, keep cooking turnips, tossing occasionally, until they are golden brown and caramelized and the sauce thickens and glazes the vegetables, about 5 minutes longer.
Add lemon juice and a splash of water to pan and swirl to coat turnips. Season with salt and pepper.