My son is a farmer at Beetlebung Farm. Last season, after a day at the farm, he would arrive home with a handful of petite, ivory-white turnips, the shape of beets or large radishes, dangling from green tops. He would be chomping on one of these jewels, eating them like small apples — raw, crisp, mildly sweet. These beauties are Hakurei turnips, a Japanese variety. Unlike what we know of turnips, which you expect in late fall, these pop up in the springtime, and can grow through fall. They are harvested small — around two to three inches in diameter. They are often called a salad turnip, because, as my son showed me, they are delicious raw, in a salad, slaw, or even quick-pickled. But I have to confess, my favorite way to cook these delicate garden creatures is lightly braised in the oven, or even on the grill in a heavy-gauge pan.
I always roast my whole chickens for two hours, and after one hour of roasting your whole chicken, add these turnips, halved and lightly coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper. They will braise in the chicken juices, and, yes, fat.
But for summer, when you may not want to roast so much, try the latter — braised on the grill with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, chives, and any other veggies you like.
Crunchy Hakurei, Red Cabbage, and Parsley Salad with Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette
This is a great salad to bring to a party: Just combine once you arrive, and it will hold up well. If you want it to be heartier, this salad can be topped with a nice aged Parmesan or good feta. Salads are flexible; enjoy! Serves 6-8.
2 bunches Hakurei turnips, greens removed, carefully sliced thinly on a mandoline
2 cups red cabbage, also sliced on a mandoline
½ cups thinly sliced scallions
½ cup Italian parsley leaves
2 cups arugula
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. fresh, rough-chopped dill
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients, whisking in olive oil last. Toss in salad and serve.