Saturday, July 22, 2017

Turnips and Peaches

Turnips and Peaches make a very disparate title. I realize this. I am going into two recipes, hence the radically different subject matter.

Recently, I made falafel for the first time and we fell in love with them. I sort of made things in reverse order though. I got the idea for falafel, and only after that process got started did I think about pita breads, which I didn't have at the time of eating the first falafel. So I made pita breads a couple of days afterwards, and we got to stuff the pita pockets a trifle more authentically.

Another thing was shown in many places online where falafel recipes were given, and that was Turnip Pickles. So many places with photos of falafel, served in pita breads with garnishes of tomato, yogurt sauce and other things, also showed photos of a hot neon pink condiment that I finally realized was Turnip Pickles.

And here I have a confession. I do not like turnips. I have tried, over the years, to keep an open mind, but somehow, they just taste bitter, and I do not enjoy them. When living in Guatemala, I learned to like a lot of things I had never liked or eaten in my youth at home. At age 20, I went to Guatemala, determined to learn to like the foods, to learn the culture and just generally learn to fit in. While I learned to love most of the foods served, including coffee, cauliflower, radishes and a host of things I had never heard of before, turnips just never passed the threshold of acceptance, much less enjoyment.
Turnip Pickles
Turnip Pickles

I've used turnips. VERY infrequently, in a soup recipe that uses all root vegetables and their greens. Sometimes I use rutabaga, sometimes turnip. All together in the soup, and mixed with things I do like, such as carrots, parsnips and beets, the turnips just sort of blend in, and I tolerate them. I really like the earthiness of the soup, so I make it about once a year. 

And this brings me back to the concept of turnip pickles. I looked at the photos online and waffled. Finally I just made up my mind and bought ONE turnip. I figured I would give the recipe a try. What was the worst that could happen? I wouldn't like them and I wasted a few ingredients? Plenty of ingredients get wasted when I buy something and then just never get around to using it. So I went ahead.

The recipe I found and scribbled onto a piece of paper, was partly specific, partly optional. I figured I would easily be able to go back and find it, to give credit. IF, that is, I liked the pickles. And guess what? I absolutely LOVED these turnip pickles! Finally, at age 67, I found a turnip recipe that I can eat with enjoyment. I went online to look for the recipe. I found more than 20 variations on the theme, but none - not even one of them - is the one I scribbled down. So, whoever had this recipe online, forgive me. I love the recipe. I added spices to my own taste. I didn't have a fresh beet (which gives the beautiful neon pink color) but had some plain, cooked beets. The color in my turnip pickles is not quite as vibrant as most seen online, but close enough. The color is just pretty, and in no way necessary. The pickles are crunchy, tangy and marvelous. The recipe I used is this:

Turnip Pickles
Turnip Pickles

Turnip Pickles

Makes about 1 quart
2 medium turnips
2 or 3 slices raw beet
½ red onion, sliced
¾ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup water 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 bay leaf 

Peel the turnips and slice them however you prefer. Some slice them about ¼-inch thick and then in quarters, some slice them into sticks. Set them into a saucepan with the slices of beet. Add in all the remaining ingredients, bring just to boil, then pack into a jar. Refrigerate, once cooled.  Allow the pickles about 3 days to develop their color and flavor.

On to the Peaches

My sister-in-law loves peaches. I love peaches too, but not in the all consuming way she does. If there is a recipe involving peaches, Sherri is all about it! For her birthday recently, I made dinner for her; whatever she wants, I make for her birthday dinner each year. In past, she has asked for me to make Peach Crisp. I love my apple crisp recipe and it is just so good I call it "Best Apple Crisp, Ever." If the photo (in my link) does not inspire, I beg pardon. It is the most exceptional recipe. However, when substituting peaches for the apples in the recipe, the mixture stays runny, too juicy by far, and the topping, which should be crunchy, remains soggy. I have made this for her at least twice in past, and I have not been at all pleased with how it came out, though Sherri professed to truly love it
Peach Crisp
Peach Crisp

So when Sherri asked me to make Peach Crisp for dessert on her birthday, my heart kind of sank a little. But I would make it, no matter what. That's what she wanted. I sat and thought about the recipe a little bit. I thought about apples - in the sense that they tend to thicken on their own, because of their pectin. Peaches, on the other hand, have no natural pectin, so they stay runny unless thickened. So, why not thicken them? I went to look at recipes for peach pie. Every recipe I own seems to call for canned peaches. I wanted to use fresh peaches. Drat. Thickeners, to my mind, would either be tapioca or cornstarch. Since neither Sherri nor her brother (my husband) like tapioca, then cornstarch was going to be the choice.

The other thing was that with apple crisp, I use nutmeg and cinnamon as the spices. To me, cinnamon is not the best flavor for a peach dessert. I thought about spices, their flavors, and what might go well with peaches. I came up with a combination of nutmeg, ginger and allspice. 

What an absolutely delightful Peach Crisp it turned out to be. The flavors were exceptional. The best of all was that the peaches were thickened, so the topping got nice and crisp. It was a most exceptional Peach Crisp, indeed. And this is what I did:

Best Peach Crisp, Ever

Makes one 8 x 8-inch pan
Best Peach Crisp, Ever
Best Peach Crisp, Ever

4 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, whisked slightly with a fork

⅓ cup melted butter

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray with cooking spray an oven-proof 8 x 8-inch pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the peaches with the cornstarch, sugar and spices. Toss well to combine and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour in the whisked egg, and with a fork, quickly mix and toss, creating a sort of streusel-like mixture. If all the dry ingredients are not moistened, this is not a problem.

Have the melted butter ready, and combine the second set of the spices in a small bowl.

Mix the peaches once more, to distribute the sugar and cornstarch, then pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the peaches. 
Drizzle the melted butter evenly over the top of the streusel, then lightly sprinkle on the reserved spices. 

Bake the Crisp for about 35 minutes, or until the topping is golden and crisp, and the peach mixture is bubbling up the sides in places. Serve warm. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.