This simple, cold-weather soup is best served hot, but it also satisfies when consumed cold the next day, as a winter vichyssoise with turnips instead of spuds. Mild Japanese turnips benefit from a little flavor boost, so I add onion, cardamom and medium-hot pepper flakes to the soup. This is a good way to enjoy salad turnips that are too large to fancy eating raw.
If you pull turnips from a greenhouse or cold frame, include the green tops as well. You can simmer and purée them along with the soup, which will turn it a pale green color. But at Christmas, I drizzle the puréed turnip greens atop the soup along with the red pepper flakes for a festive touch.
• 1 cup coarsely chopped onions
• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 tsp ground cardamom
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
• 1 cup water, divided
• 2 pounds Japanese turnips
• 1/2 cup whipping cream
• 1 cup packed coarsely chopped turnip greens
• 1 tbsp pepper flakes, preferably bright red and medium-hot
1.In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté the onions in butter with cardamom and salt for about 5 minutes, until they’re softened but not browned. Pour in the chicken broth and 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Add the turnips, cover, and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re tender when pricked with a fork. Purée in batches with a blender, food processor, food mill or immersion blender. Return turnips to pan and add cream.
2. While the turnips are cooking, combine the turnip greens with 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, or until the greens are tender and some of the water has evaporated. Purée the greens and return them to the pan. They should be just thick enough to drizzle over the soup, but not watery. Reduce over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes if needed.
3. When ready to serve, heat the soup to a simmer and then pour into individual bowls. Using a small pitcher or large spoon, dot the surface of each serving with puréed greens. Then, drag the tip of a small knife through the dots in a spiral motion to craft an enchanting pattern akin to branches of greenery. Sprinkle each bowl with pepper flakes and serve right away.
Want to learn more about cooking and growing arugula and turnips? Read Growing Arugula and Turnips for the Table for more information.
Barbara Damrosch farms and writes with her husband, Eliot Coleman, at Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, where sturdy bowls of turnip soup chase the chill on cool winter evenings. She is the author of The Garden Primer and, with Coleman, The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.