Monday, November 15, 2010

Baked Turnip Surprise

I picked-up an amazing cookbook at a garage sale early this fall:

The "Best-of-All" Cook Book
compiled and edited by Florence Brobeck
published 1960

At first it seemed like a boring, cheater cookbook. Ms. Brobeck has simply gathered recipes from never-before-heard-from, totally random cookbooks that had themselves been complied by someone. I mean, recipes from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book by the Foods Editors of Better Homes and Gardens? Or the cookbook Who Says We Can't Cook! by Members of the Women's National Press Club? Or how about The A.B.C. of Spice Cookery and How To Use Spices, both by the American Spice Trade Association? I mean... really. How good could this cookbook actually be?

The answer:  Amazingly, wonderfully good.

I've rarely enjoyed reading a cookbook as much as I enjoyed reading The "Best-of-All" (and I've read a lot of cookbooks. What I lack in the desire to cook I totally make up for in lazy couch sitting and the paging through recipes).

The variety of dishes is vast (which is as you'd expect it, since Brobeck has sampled recipes from over one hundred different cookbooks) and thus incredibly interesting. And even the recipes promoting the original compilers' product (Fun with Coffee from the Pan-American Coffee Bureau, anyone?) first just made me giggle because I was reminded of Anne of Green Gables' romantic short story (about baking power, wasn't it?) and secondly it ended-up striking me as crazy-obvious that of course the group that promotes an ingredient is going to know a lot about said ingredient and it follows that one might want to listen to the experts when they share their ideas.

So, what exciting recipe did I try from the super-exciting cookbook? Baked Turnips! Of course.

But by this time (a long-winded post, I know. Get on with it, woman!) you're wondering what the surprise is, right?

Well, I was slicing up turnips yesterday for the recipe when, as it would turn out, it dawned on me that my "turnips" were actually beets.

Wouldn't you say these are turnips? 

Now, I cannot totally confirm this. I've looked through the CSA website and I've Googled turnips and beets and also tried rutabagas and even double-checked daikon radishes, but I have yet to see a picture of the root vegetables that I found myself cooking last night. (BTW, have you ever researched the different types of beets, turnips and rutabagas? Millions of different kinds. Or at least ten. I've lived such a sheltered life.) In the end, I must admit I have no idea what I actually brought home from the CSA.

But then look! Crazy insides!

It's so confusing.

Maybe this meal should be call Baked Turnip Confusion.

Well, no matter what name you slap on it, the dish was delightful. May I introduce:

Baked Turnips? Beets? Rutabagas? 
Anonymous Root Vegetable 
(with White & Purple & Green Outsides 
and Red & White Insides)

originally from 
The Gentle Art of Cookery 
by Mrs. C. F. Leyel and Miss Olga Hartley

6 small white turnips [or whatever]
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese [I used Swiss*]
Ground nutmeg
Salt & pepper
1 cup milk or thin white sauce
3 Tbls bread crumbs
1 Tbls butter

Start oven at moderate (350 degrees F). Butter 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Scrub turnips [or whatever], rinse, drain, and pare. Slice thinly into greased dish in alternate layers with cheese; season each layer of turnips [or whatever] lightly with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Add little cayenne to top layer, pour milk or white sauce over contents of dish, sprinkle top with crumbs, dot with butter. Bake in moderate oven 35 minutes, or until turnips [or whatever] are done. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

*As a rule, I hate Swiss cheese. But yesterday my fridge was full of it (weird story) and figured I'd like it better cooked in a dish, flavors mingling, than by itself on crackers where it's nasty dry bitter taste is overpowering and chokes out your will to live. And I was right! Baked with whatever-they-were, the Swiss cheese tasted great. 


  1. I had a recipe similar to this given to me in GA about 6 years ago. My first reaction was, yuck.
    But, I tried making it and ate the entire batch in one sitting, barely sparing the dish time to cool.
    I went out this afternoon to gather some tops for steaming and drizzeling with pear vinegar (perry cider fiasco turned act of brillance). Lo and behold! Turnips, some the size of softballs. The cool evenings and upper 50s days along with 3 days of slow soaking rain perked these fellers right up.
    Hence my google search which led me to this blog, so I could post this message. I will be cooking this tomorrow after church.

  2. I love the randomness of the internet. Hope you enjoy the bake as much as we did! (Also: Pear vinegar sounds amazing.)