It’s easy to get comfortable using only a few types of produce in day to day cooking, neglecting the rest of the assortment in the produce section. I’m guilty of this myself, typically favoring a relatively small selection of fruits and vegetables. Occasionally I’ll splurge and get myself an avocado (as you can see, I really live on the edge). It’s time to get more adventurous on a regular basis.
I decided to use this as an opportunity to try two new pieces of produce because I’d like to add to my standard repertoire in the grocery store. I was adventurous (for me) in selecting two seasonal pieces: leeks and turnips. I’ve eaten both in the past on few occasions, and have never cooked with either, so I took them home, got on my computer, and found some ideas for how to prepare them.
Recipe 1: Sweet potato, carrot, and leek soup: I happened to have some carrot puree in my freezer from when I needed to prevent geriatric carrots from going to waste (I hoped carrot puree would be fancy, but in reality it was basically just baby food), and I knew I could count on the trusty sweet potato to prevent this from being a total flop.
These, plus water, garlic, and seasonings, were used to make the soup.
Preparing was pretty simple. It just involved cooking the chopped leek stem in olive oil, then adding broth (in my case, water and chicken base), carrot puree, and mashed sweet potato. I seasoned it with two cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric, and a little cinnamon. Some of it went through the Magic Bullet for a smoother texture. I cooked the leek greens separately and then put them in the soup to simmer for a while.
This recipe made enough for a bowl for dinner (served with greek yogurt) plus leftovers for two more meals.
Recipe 2: Finnish Turnip and Carrot Casserole: I didn’t mean for carrots to be a secondary feature, but here they are yet again. I followed this recipe, going a little light on the sugar (next time, I would halve the sugar used). All of the carrot puree was used in the soup, and only had baby carrots were present in my refrigerator, so I made due and hoped for the best. Another place where I made due was dealing with not having any milk. Diluted greek yogurt made a (hopefully) adequate substitute.
Finished Finnish Casserole. Despite the color of the edge, it didn’t taste burnt at all. Next time I’d like to find out how to serve it without making it look like a victim in a horror film.
Its sweetness makes it work as dessert or breakfast, and it was good both hot and cold. To me, halving the sugar would give it that perfect balance between sweet and savory where it could fit into either category. Removing it from my dish in one piece was tragically unsuccessful; perhaps it needed to cool more.
Recipe 3: Sautéed leeks and turnips: The first two recipes nicely incorporated these new ingredients as part of a whole dish, but I wanted to see how the two hold up on their own without anything else to hide behind. I did some light reading on their cooking times and noticed leek greens take more time to cook compared to other greens I was more familiar with. I simmered the leeks for about 5 minutes to soften, then removed water, added turnip cubes, and sautéed for 15 more minutes. Next time I would include the turnips in the simmering, as they weren’t quite soft. I seasoned them with one clove of garlic, salt, and pepper. They came out well. Turnips, like potatoes, seem a little bland, and benefitted from being with the leeks and from seasoning.
1 cubed turnip and 1 leek. Used all of the leek greens and a third of the stalk. The turnips didn’t come with their own greens, something to watch for next time.
Delicious accompaniment to salmon.
While I wouldn’t say the amount of produce eaten this week was drastically greater than from typical weeks, the added variety was warmly welcomed. The soup was certainly a more produce-dense meal than I typically make, and a welcome diversion from baked sweet potato fries or mashed sweet potato. Leek greens/stalks together make a nice substitute for onions and spinach all in the same plant, which is pretty convenient.
Completing this assignment was a good exercise in focusing on how I can use produce in different ways. Using it as the main dish, incorporated in a sweet dish, and as a side dish was a good demonstration of the range of these items. I did complete this task feeling motivated to think a little more outside the box when coming up with ideas for meals. I hope to continue incorporating new pieces of produce in my regular diet and step away from the tried and true spinach from time to time.