Shalgham Pokhteh – Turnips (Bless Their Heart)
Ah, turnip! Or shalgham joon, as I call you in Farsi,
I can’t say I have fond childhood memories of you. Probably because I didn’t like you not even one bit but Maman forced you down my throat (figuratively speaking) at the first sign of sniffles or onset of cold. There you were: boiled, colorless, wobbly, and devoid of any taste save for an ungodly one. Dare I say, I found you to be grotesque. I had to hold my nose to eat you! I’m not saying you stank … but wouldn’t you agree that you didn’t necessarily smell the sweetest?
At some point though, I realized that the root of our strained relationship may have been Maman, who tends to overcook her veggies. Now mind you, she is a most glorious cook so I’m in no way dissing her, but the lady doth cooketh her veggies far too long, thus draining them of all vitality and joie de vivre, which may also explain why I did not discover that I am a lover of all things vegetable until I grew up and experienced the many wonders of this, our amazing world.
Now that I know better, I see that you just needed better public relations. I appreciate that you may be plain but that you shine virtuously with inner goodness. I maybe do not love you, still, but I really dig you. No pun intended, you being a root vegetable and all. No, seriously, you are cool. We are cool.
And when you are not overcooked, your texture is alright, resembling a cooked potato; and seasoned properly, why, you taste pretty darn good even; and of course you are super-packed with mighty nutrients and vitamins, so maybe those Iranians touting you as a common household remedy for colds and sniffles and chest pain and such since the days of ancient Persia, know a thing or two after all.
I’m fighting a cold, so I’m reaching out for you. I’m going to scrub you clean, boil you, peel you, and eat you with salt. Once I’m better (correction: once you make me better and thank you, shalgham joon, in advance) I hope to make a yummy āsh with you. Maman, possibly in penance for her days of overcooking you into oblivion, now slices you thinly, sautes you in oil with some finely chopped garlic seasoned wth salt, and let me tell you: there you are, a smashing side dish. Baby: you are a star! I want to give you a try that way as well once I’m no longer on my sick bed. And some day, I’ll attempt to use you in a few of the zillion enticing non-Persian recipes for you on the Internet. Like this roasted turnips with parmesan. Drooling. (See? You did just need better PR.)
So here we are, dear turnip, shalgham joon, years and continents away from when we first met, and isn’t it nice that we are letting bygones be bygones, making such good new memories together? Sigh.
In conclusion, turnip: you move me.
- Turnips! (As many as your heart desires.)
- Trim roots and cut the greens. (You can save the greens which are edible and use it in a soup or ash.) For the most nutritional benefit (to seal in all the nutrients) do not cut the lid or tail off. Scrub turnips with a vegetable brush under running water.
- Bring water (enough to cover all the turnips by at least 1/2 inch) to a rapid boil in a pot. Add turnips, reduce flame immediately, and simmer on low heat for for 15-20 minutes or until turnips are tender enough that you can easily puncture with a fork. Do not overcook as it will be its kiss of death! (Hot tip from Maman: to reduce that particular eau-de-turnip, put a slice of bread in the pot. She says it works!)
- Drain. Allow turnips to cool off a bit so you won’t burn your hand, then peel back the skins with your finger – it should come off quite easily, and trim the coarse ends of the tail and lid. Quarter each turnip and serve.
Serve hot. (Cold boiled turnip is a thing of horror and must be avoided at all costs, so make sure to serve immediately. while it is still steaming and nice.) Sprinkle with salt as you partake.
Make it, enjoy it in good health, and noosheh jaan!