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Winter Vegetables Masquerading as Spring

February 21, 2011 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food , Vegetables | Post comment

Winter Vegetables Masquerading as Spring

Turnips, rutabagas, a carrot, some broccoli stems —at first glance, what could sound more dismal?  But pick up these inexpensive vegetables, take off their skins, cut them with care, then blanch and dress them with shallots, lemon and thyme, and you have a cheerful looking dish that anticipates spring. The turnip flesh stays white; the rutabaga a delicate yellow, the broccoli stems glow and the carrots are of course, orange.  I have made a version of this dish in which everything is cut in a julienne (strips), blanched then tossed with lemon vinaigrette – a warm salad. This version is chunkier and more substantial, a good side for a simple meat or fish dish, or tossed with big pasta shapes.

Amounts are not crucial at all. Here’s what I did – it’s just an example.


2 small turnips
2 larger rutabagas
1 long carrot
3 or 4 broccoli stems
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 wide strips lemon zest, slivered, plus juice of ½ lemon
1 small garlic clove chopped with very small handful parsley
1 teaspoon butter and 2 teaspoons olive oil
About ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, if available


1.  Thickly peel the turnips with a sharp paring knife, taking wide bands of skin from top to bottom. Cut into wedges, most likely sixths. Likewise, peel the rutabagas. Be sure to cut under the visible line under the skin, which is the epidermis. It’s fine but just a little tough. Cut into eights. Thickly peel the broccoli stems.  If there are any small leaves attached, set them aside to use. Slice them diagonally about ½ inch thick. Peel and slice the carrot the same as the broccoli stems.

2.  Bring a few quarts of water to a boil.  Add salt, then the rutabagas and carrots, which take longest to cook.  Simmer until tender-firm, about 5 minutes, then remove with a strainer to a bowl, keeping any small amount of water that drains off into the bowl for later use.  Add the turnips and broccoli stems and simmer until tender, about 3 minutes. Add to the other vegetables along with any small broccoli leaves.

3.  Mince half the lemon zest with the garlic and parsley.

4.  Heat a sauté pan with 1 teaspoon butter and 2 teaspoons olive oil. When hot, add the shallots and cook, stirring for 1/2 minute.  Add the lemon zest, chopped herbs and thyme along with the vegetables and any water that might have drained off.  Sauté, tossing them repeatedly in the herbs. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze over a little lemon juice for brightness, or omit, if you prefer. Turn into a serving dish and serve warm.

Serves  4 to 6