Monday, July 31, 2006

"Borrowed" Recipes

Yesterday I spent the day at “my other job”–I’m a volunteer ranger for the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association. My assignment yesterday was at Big Falls - a picnic area and wilderness trailhead about a half mile from my house. We had a break in the weather over the weekend, and it was nice and cool up here. It was a beautiful day, and the picnic area was about half full of families that had come up from the valley to barbecue and enjoy the fresh air. There’s a short (1/4 mile) trail to the highest waterfall in southern California, and Mill Creek runs past the picnic area. (During the non-winter months, we sleep with our windows open so we can hear the waterfall.) There’s also a separate parking area for the Vivian Creek Trailhead, one of the most heavily-used trails in California. My duties consist mainly of selling Adventure Passes, passing out pamphlets, and picking up trash on the trail to the falls. Most of the time I get to sit and read, though, so yesterday I took a stack of Cooking Light magazines with me. I clipped and clipped, and saved dozens of recipes to try.

The first one on the list was the most simple:

Pork Chops with Cherry Preserves Sauce


4 boneless pork chops
1/2 t salt, divided
1/4 t black pepper, divided
1 c cherry preserves
1 t balsamic vinegar
chopped chives (optional)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle pork with 1?4 t salt and 1/8 t black pepper. Add pork to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove pork from pan and keep warm. Add preserves, vinegar, 1/4 t salt, and 1/8 t pepper to pan. Cook 30 seconds, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Serve with pork. Garnish with chopped chives, if desired.

I had some turnips in the refrigerator, and had meant to fix them the way I normally do–boiled and mashed with a bit of butter and salt. But I found a new way to try them, and it was wonderful! Alanna of A Veggie Venture has hundreds and hundreds of recipes for ways to fix every kind of vegetable under the sun. I often visit her site when I feel like I’m “in a rut,” making the same thing over and over, and I’ve visted it often now that I’m looking for vegetable side dishes other than potatoes. Tonight I made creamed turnips, which were a great counterpart for the very sweet pork chops. I have to tell you, they were a success! I now have TWO great ways to eat one of my favorite vegetables.

Creamed Turnips
from Alanna of A Veggie Venture

Water to cover, salted
1 pound turnips, peeled and quartered (the sauce volume below can handle 2 pounds)
1 cup whole milk (even though I often make white sauce with skim because it's what's on hand)
2 bay leaves (Turkish bay leaves are less bitter than California)
2 whole cloves
2 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
Kosher salt to taste
Sprinkle white pepper (white pepper doesn't mess up the color but black would be fine for taste)
Sprinkle nutmeg (fresh is always good but regular is just fine)

Bring water to boil in a small pot (if possible, use something other than non-stick so you can mash the turnips in the same pan later) on MEDIUM HIGH. Add the turnips and return to a boil, then reduce heat to MEDIUM to maintain a simmer. Cook until cooked through, about 15 minutes.Drain and return to pot.

While the turnips cook, combine the milk, bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns in a microwave container. Bring it just to a boil in the microwave, starting with 30 seconds, then 15 seconds at a time until just before boiling. Let rest until ready to use. Remove the bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns.

While the milk is warming, melt the butter in a small saucepan on MEDIUM. Stir in the flour until the mixture is thick and silky and without lumps. Slowly -- that means a drop at a time at first, up to a tablespoon at a time -- add the hot milk (have you removed the bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns?), stirring all the time, incorporating the milk completely before adding more. Once all the milk is incorporated, continue to stir for a couple of minutes, finishing the cooking process. It's okay if small bubbles form but don't let the mixture boil. Once the white sauce is cooked, reduce the heat to LOW to hold. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg.

When the turnips drained, add the sauce to the pan and mash with a hand masher or hand mixer (it's too big a job for an immersion blender) until somewhat smooth -- though they won't be as smooth as mashed potatoes. Spoon into a serving bowl, then top with another sprinkle of nutmeg.


Alanna said...

So glad the turnips worked out! As I recall, I "borrowed" that recipe too, from Elise at Simply Recipes! We'll likely only make up a small club, however, turnip lovers!

sher said...

That's a great volunteer job!!!!