This may not be the most sensational, squeal-inducing recipe you’ve seen today; I think it takes a special person to get really hopped up for turnips. I guess I must be that person, because these grilled turnips are the dish I crave more than any other this summer. We have some at least once a week, with a few variations I will mention later, and I’ve started to worry about the length of the salad turnip season. But let’s not be negative. While they’re around, get yourself a bunch or three of the pearly white turnips called Tokyo or Hakurei in many markets, simply salad turnips in others. They are not woody, stinky and tending toward bitter like the turnips you may associate with winter stews and Thanksgiving dinner, but cool and crisp, wonderful raw and even better on the grill.
You read that right, I grill my turnips. The best results have come in foil packets: the vegetables get brown and caramelized on the bottom and steam to perfection on the top, resulting in a tender, sweet, wonderful side dish. Whenever we have a reason to fire up the grill, I throw some turnips in foil; even cold the next day, they are a refreshing addition to salads of all kinds. Now let’s talk about those variations I mentioned before: you can add diced garlic scapes (or chives, or thinly sliced shallots), and I highly recommend that you do. You can add a cup of small or halved cremini mushrooms, preferably in addition to the garlic scapes. You could replace the salt & pepper with shichimi togarashi or World Spice’s Osaka seasoned salt. If you want a dairy-free option, replace the butter with olive oil, just make sure you get the garlic scapes and/or shichimi togarashi in there for flavor. These are just a few of the ways I’ve made grilled turnips this summer and you can bet I’ll keep experimenting with other options.
I used to fall into the trap of thinking of turnips as “boring” and referring to them as “humble”. No more, my friends: grilling takes turnips into a new, modern, dare I say exciting realm. I am terribly bummed out about the burn ban in Washington campgrounds this summer, for obvious dry, hot, scary reasons, but also because I was so looking forward to eating campfire turnips! I’m tempted to book another trip if the ban is lifted. Until then, I’ll have packets on the grill at home as often as I can; let me know you’re coming and I’ll make enough for you, too.
Grilled Salad Turnips
- 2 bunches of salad (Hakurei) turnips (about 1 lb.), washed, roots trimmed, greens removed*, halved or quartered
- 2-3 whole garlic scapes, cut in small pieces (or 1 small shallot, sliced)
- 1 c. small or halved cremini mushrooms, cleaned (optional)
- 2 T. cold unsalted butter, cut in small pieces (or same amount of olive oil)
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- generous freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt (or shichimi togarashi)
Tear off a piece of aluminum foil about 1 foot wide. Put the garlic scapes in the center of the foil. Pile the turnips (and mushrooms) on top of the scapes. Dot with butter and sprinkle vinegar over the top. Season with salt & pepper, or shichimi togarashi. Meet the long ends of the foil in the middle and fold over three times (or more if necessary) to seal the packet. Crimp in the sides to close. Place the foil packet on a medium-hot grill** on direct heat for 5 mins., then rotate the packet 180 degrees and cook for another 5 mins. Move to indirect heat and cook for 8-10 mins. Remove the packet from the grill and keep it closed until you’re ready to serve. (It will hold for 15-20 mins.) Open carefully, being mindful not to burn yourself on escaping steam, and serve immediately.
*If you are lucky enough to find bunches with the greens still attached, don’t throw them away! Turnip greens are so good sauteed or steamed; you could make a really nice warm salad with them, your grilled turnips and other seasonal vegetable. And turnip greens are good for you, packed with vitamins K, A and C as well as folate, fiber, calcium and more. If you don’t want to make a salad, serve them as you would any other cooked greens– for instance, you could make some empanadas.
**All grills are different. I use a small hibachi-like model and these are the times and temperature that work for me. If your grill is particularly powerful, the cook time may be different for you.