Friday, April 18, 2008

Veggie Tales at the OK Corral

Serenbe is a public place to learn how to farm. Not only are there newly inhabited houses directly abutting the farm (be careful what tree you pee behind!), but people are always wanting to come tour the grounds. Often enough they simply let themselves in and wander aimlessly along the main road--slightly worrisome but rather hard to prevent--but on occasion we dabble in agritourism and show off the farm to school kids or wedding parties. I'm rather looking forward to one upcoming wedding tour, the guests for which are almost exclusively from L.A. Overalls, a good thick drawl, and possibly bare feet are in order that day, me thinks. This morning, however, our guests were rather smaller and less glamorous: 66 seventh graders from an Atlanta private school.

Despite our fears of junior high angst and calculated boredom, our kids were a pretty good group. They gamely followed Paige, Jack, and I around the farm, sampling viola flowers, pea tips (the aphids added protein, we assured them), and whatever else we endorsed as edible. We put them to work seeding squash and cucumbers for us, let them feed spinach to the chickens, and tried to teach them to difference between beds and paths. Having introduced them to the general principles of our organic, biointensive system, we decided that some recreation was in order in the form of my favorite ridiculous game: "Vegetabling Off." Imagine a Veggie Tales interpretation of Tombstone and you've got a pretty close approximation of a successful Vegetable Off. The two contenders begin back-to-back and at a caller's instructions take three steps in opposite directions. On the caller's mark, they then turn to face one another and impersonate in both action and sound the vegetable that the caller has just named. Observers then vote as to who has most captured the essence of the produce (or simply who has looked most absurd).

Much as I enjoyed helping self-conscious adolescents be goofy and unstudied, the experience showed me how limited the vegetable repertoire of your average 13-year-old is; when I shouted "eggplant" I was met with blank stares. So I limited myself to the more traditional fare of carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and peas and restrained myself from pulling out celeriac or turnips.

I, on the other hand, have been pulling turnips out of the ground in abundance. Slightly larger than a radish and pure white, our Hakureis have a crisp crunch and a clean, ever-so-slight sweetness that grants them easy admittance to my "eat it raw" list. Still, I feel that I don't really know a vegetable until I've applied heat to it in some form or fashion, and if you feel the same, you've got to try this.

Glazed Turnips with Scallions and Parsley

Be sure to use a sauce pan with maximum surface area, as you want to glaze to reduce down quickly, before the turnips get over-cooked. Don't be afraid to do as I did and remove the turnips from the heat while the glaze finishes reducing, as it allows the veggies to retain just enough of that wonderful crunch.

1/4 stick (1/8 cup) unsalted butter
1 1/2 lb turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Melt butter in a wide 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, then add turnips, stirring until well coated. Add broth, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until turnips are just tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Continue to boil turnips, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced enough to just glaze turnips, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with scallions and parsley.


Julia said...

I LOVE this blog. And it isn't just because I know and love you. Where else can I get fun farm facts, witticisms, social commentary, game ideas for youth group (though we did play Vegetable Off once, per your request, I think), AND new and wonderful recipes to try??
Not to mention a really good laugh out of imagining you trying to be an eggplant. (What noise does an eggplant make, exactly?)

Congrats on a great read. Looking forward to the next installment!

wendy said...

Crap. Julia just said everything I was about to say.

Seriously. I am obsessed with reading blogs. Yours is in my top two.

Miss you, love you, etc.