Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Soup Project: Spring Turnip Greens Soup and Market News

Market News

At the market on Saturday I gathered a variety of produce for a vegetable soup when my friend Patty mentioned that Mair Farm had spring turnips. After buying two amazing greens from Let Us Farm, I headed over to the Mair Farm-Taki booth and waited in line.

Mair Farm-Taki was profiled in my book for their excellent tree fruit. Though Mair Farm brings lots of fruits to the market, it's also an organic row crop farm, and in the past few years, farmer Katsumi Taki has transitioned to organic Asian vegetable varieties since most farmers sell traditional European varieties at the market. Taki's spinach and turnips have Asian roots and his popular Japanese cucumbers are one of a kind in the Northwest. They are so unique they cost more and they command long lines at the market. These Asian treasures everyone lines up for are worth a budget splurge, but you have to get there early or you'll miss out. I snagged some of the last cucumbers left and it was only a few minutes after the market opened.

One of our market friends, Herb is 90 years old. He is blind and his assistant always accompanies him to the market. Herb and his assistant buy fresh vegetables every week and load them into Herb's granny cart. It's inspiring to watch how much produce he buys. Herb got 3 bunches of turnips and 2 bunches of spinach from Mair Farm. I was only going to get one bunch of turnips until I saw Herb loading up. The market can be a little dangerous for my budget, but I can't argue that fresh organic vegetables play a key role in health so I could feel the splurge coming before I actually had the greens in hand.

While I waited in line, I overheard two women talking about Billy Allstot of Billy's Gardens in Tonasket. Billy's fresh organic tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are crowd magnets at the market. One of the woman mentioned that Billy won't be back this year. The other said, he was making more money selling his produce to Whole Foods but maybe if people wrote to him and told him how much he was appreciated, he'd reconsider and come back. Another market vendor told me that Billy isn't going to sell at any local markets and is now sending his fresh produce on barges to Alaska like Full Circle Farm.

"He can make more money sending it to Alaska because they're dying for fresh produce there," she'd said. This makes me wonder about the shifting landscape of fresh produce available in this area. I wonder how long before other farms follow suit and send locally grown treasures to Alaska?

Another piece of market news involves the future of the the U-District market. The owners of this parking lot want to see more revenue and they don't think the market is contributing enough of their share. They are seriously considering terminating this market and having the parking lot bring in revenue. Unlike the Ballard Market, the streets in the U District are not available for closing off on Saturday mornings, so the future of this market is debatable. We could be out of a market this summer.

Please, if you care about this oldest neighborhood market inquire at the market information table for more information, come to the meeting and voice your opinion.

Japanese varieties of turnips and spinach from Mair Farm-Taki intrigue my Cooking Assistant.

Soup of the week

I make this soup every spring, and I included a version of it in my book. This time I included horseradish root that I also found at the Mair Farm booth. One good thing about long lines for farmers is that as people wait in line, they talk and they tend to buy more than if they just walked up to the booth and picked out a few thing and paid for them. That's how I bought the horseradish root. It looks like the stick in this picture, and I wasn't sure how it would blend with the turnip greens but I was about to find out in a few hours.

Spring turnips are only here for a few months and though many farmers grow them, none seem to have the Japanese varieties that Taki grows. Spring turnips are so sweet and flavorful when cooked, I could easily have gotten three or four bunches.

Like my asparagus soup, I cooked the vegetables separately and added them near the end of cooking. I wanted the turnips and onions to caramelize in a bit of oil and I wanted to have chunks in an otherwise creamy soup. Another reason was that I'd gotten red potatoes for a vegetable medley soup and then switched soup ideas. What color do you get when you blend red and green? Also, caramelized vegetables always add an unfortunate brownish color--I didn't want to think about gravy while eating this soup. Also I wanted the sweet turnips and potatoes to add character to the soup.

Turnip greens soup is a quick fix. It's best enjoyed after you return from the market becaue turnip greens don't keep. I make this soup a lot while turnips are in season. The recipe always changes a bit and this week I included horseradish. For a main dish, this soup is on the thin side and the truth is, I often eat the entire batch myself since Tom isn't a turnip fan. Oh what he's missing. I don't get why some people have such a resistance to this great vegetable.

Spring Turnip Greens Soup
(Serves 2 to 4)
The smaller you cut the vegetables and onions, the quicker they cook and the quicker you'll be enjoying this delicious soup. I added a handful of quinoa while this soup was cooking to thicken the base of the soup. You could try handful of oats or sprinkle in some rice flour over the top while the soup cooks for a thickener.

3 or 4 spring onions, chopped
2 bunches of turnips, greens and turnips, greens chopped and turnips diced
1 or 2 small red potatoes, small dice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons grated fresh horseradish root (peel root before grating)
1 to 2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
4 cups water
2 to 3 tablespoon quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons almond or hazelnut butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
Fresh lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Toasted bread crumbs or croutons for garnish

1.Cook the onions, turnips and potatoes in olive oil until vegetables are slightly browned and caramelized.

2. Place the chopped stems of the turnip greens, garlic, horseradish root, water and quinoa in a large saucepan. (I used the base of my pressure cooker for this.) Simmer the stems and quinoa for about 12 minutes or until quinoa is softened. Add the leaves and cook just a few minutes, until the leaves wilt.

3. Remove from heat and process in a food processor or blender. (Only process a cup at a time in the blender because hot liquid spurts.) Blend in the honey, almond or hazelnut butter and lemon zest. Return to the pot and heat gently stirring in the sauteed vegetables. In a few minutes, add lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

4. Save a little of this soup for grateful patient Cooking Assistants. (Try to avoid including onions in anything for dogs.)


Anonymous said...

Disturbing news about farmers choosing to ship their locally grown produce to Alaska instead of selling it here.

The soup sounds delicious. I'll have to try it. Love your cooking assistant!

ddzeller said...

I was very disturbed to hear the news too, but I can see where other farmers who sell tomatoes won't be as disturbed. The soup is so good.