Early on in my food writing life, I wrote about a version of this soup, a recipe I’d gotten from Alice Waters. The blog post was called “Sex and the Turnip.” (Analytics tells me this post still comes up quite a bit in certain Google searches.) I felt then, as I do now, that the Hakurei turnip belongs in the ranks of oysters and chocolate that its curvy smooth flesh qualifies it for aphrodisiac status. Bite into a raw Hakurei turnip and it gives under your teeth, not with a crunch but with a glide. Cooked, the texture becomes silky and transparent, the taste both sweet and bitter at once. It’s best raw, caramelized (see this page), or like this, in a simple soup that gives the sexy turnip a bath in which to lounge.
This recipe is quite close to the Alice Waters original, but I couldn’t create a collection of simple vegetable recipes without it. It would seem that a soup of just turnips wouldn’t be a stunner, but over the years it’s never failed to be a showstopper. Try to use really delicious stock here, as the taste will make a big difference. And don’t skip the Parmesan it’s essential.
- Yield: 2 quarts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 cups thinly sliced leeks (1 to 2 leeks, using all the white and the tender part of the green)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Kosher salt
- 2 bunches Hakurei turnips (about 1¾ pounds), greens separated, turnips quartered and thinly sliced
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- For serving: Grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot set over medium heat. Add the leeks, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks soften, about 5 minutes. Add the turnips and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and slightly translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sort through the turnip greens and discard any withered ones. Rinse the good greens, roughly chop them, and measure out 4 cups. Save any extra for Miso Greens or Polenta with All the Greens.
- Add the stock to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a low boil. Add the greens to the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and cook until the turnips are silky and the greens are tender, 10 minutes. Taste, and add additional salt, as necessary. Serve with lots of Parmesan cheese.