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A Trip On The Turnip Truck: Tasty Turnip Truck Tagine

In January I started contributing recipes to Earth Eats that feature local and seasonal ingredients, but I don't just write up the recipes and take pictures of the final products, my creations are also my meals. So along with being healthy and low cost I make sure my dishes are delectable as well.

I make every attempt to buy seasonal and local produce, so I was really looking forward to picking up some turnips at the Logan Square Farmer's Market here in Chicago on Sunday to make a spiced, braised, tagine style, root vegetable dish.

It was cloudy and cold and luckily for me the shopper turnout at the market was low and parking was a breeze. Before I walked in I was greeted by a fantastic aroma of frying dough. Cider doughnuts were bubbling away in hot oil and the scent of cinnamon sugar filled the hallway of the old dingy Congress Theater, where the winter market is held.

Besides the donuts a few vendors were selling eggs, bread, cheese and pickled items, but as far as fresh produce was concerned it was very limited. I know it's winter and most plants are dormant right now, but there are many local farms in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan that are practicing year-round farming with hoop houses.

Most of the time though you have to belong to a CSA in order to partake in their bounty. I am all about supporting local farms, but part of the enjoyment of cooking for me is in the shopping part. I like to seek out ingredients and find inspiration along the way. If you prefer to stay home in your pj's and have your vegetables delivered to your front door then check out these local CSA's.

So where are the veggies? No turnips, no hearty winter greens, no beets. The only green things for sale at the Logan Square market this weekend were a few herb bundles of thyme and rosemary and some fresh cut to order sprouts.

Tiny Greens has a great assortment of sprouts and micro-greens which are grown organically and hydroponically. So, sprouts is what I bought. I sampled the sunflower, which were buttery and nutty. I also tried the daikon which had some mustardy heat and the cilantro was very herbaceous and a little citrusy from the coriander seed from which it sprouted from. I asked for a mix of broccoli and China rose radish sprouts. They were a nice addition to my bowl of posole the next day.

I relayed my bit of disappointment to the lady that cut my sprouts for me. She suggested I stop on over at the Dill Pickle co-op for my turnips, since it was in the neighborhood.

What's A Girl Gotta Do To Get A Turnip?

I was looking forward to paying a visit to Dill Pickle since I discovered them on Twitter a few weeks back. A quaint little brownstone in Logan Square with very minimal signage, I spotted the Pickle and walked in to explore.

Coming in to the co-op the first thing I noticed were little bushels of assorted produce. Some bins filled with potatoes other with citrus. I'm thinking "oranges, that's not local!" I see beets and some carrots, but no turnips, not a one. I asked the guy with the boxes in the back "excuse me, do you have any turnips or rutabagas?". He replies" sorry, nope all out".

What's a girl gotta do to get a turnip around here? I looked around at the bulk bins of dried fruits and cereals but sad again not to see any flours or grains. I really miss the bins at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco. I could spend the entire day filling bags with spices, loose tea and various flours like buckwheat and kamut.

I still had an hour to spare, so I figured I might stop in at a little coffee shop on Halsted and kill some time. Well, well, what do I see on Halsted a big sign for Whole Foods. I say, 'surely I'll find some turnips here..." So, to Whole Foods I went along with my little duffle bag. I'm greeted with root vegetables of all kinds – Orange, pink, yellow, purple, white and green.

I picked out some parsnips, carrots, turnips and one chubby rutabaga. I know that they are all organic and seasonal, but local? Well, no. They're all from California, in fact. Where's the turnip truck, I want to get on and go back out west?!

Speaking of turnip you know why it's a bad thing if you fall off of one? Well, the association is that if you're on the turnip truck you're naive, gullible and often straight off the farm. In my book that's not such a bad thing. I like turnips roasted with a little honey and sea salt or grated into salad. Who's the turnips' PR rep, they need a reputation boost!

Off The Truck And Into The Kitchen

After my imrpov workshop, in which no surprise most of my scenarios involved food (a pie festival and an obsession with mayonisse to mention two), I went home to cook. On these blustery winter nights nothing is more comforting than slow cooked food with layers of deep flavors.

I try to keep most of my recipes simple and approachable so that readers are excited to try them or maybe re-create them in thier own way. I always have an arsenal of spices in my pantry. I prefer to buy small ammounts of whole spices and toast and grind them myself to ensure optimal flavor. Also, by buying spices in little batches I can try new ones and play with creations in my kitchen.

Read: Earth Eats' advice for buying and storing spices

I peeled, I chopped, I sauteed and braised. I made a delicious Moroccan inspired winter root braise. Spices commonely used in the Moroccan kitchen include cinnamon, paprika, black pepper, safrron, cardamom and ginger. Spices are wonderful for producing and maintaining heat in the body and that's a good thing this time of year.

Preserved lemons are ubiqutious to Moroccan cusine as well. I did not have lemons on hand but I did have some plump navel oranges. So that went into the pot as well.

Comforted by my braised roots and satisfied to have finally found them after a long day of turnip hunting I was still California dreamin' and wondering if there was room for one more on the truck going back West.

Recipe: Turnip Truck Tagine

turnip tagineIngredients:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 (1 inch) piece ginger, peeled and freshly grated
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 2 turnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small rutagaba, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups organic low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup orange segments
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped flat leaf parlsey or cilantro


  1. In a heavy bottom soup pot or Dutch oven heat butter and olive oil over medium heat until butter has melted.
  2. Add in the onion and ginger and cook until tender and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add all the chopped vegetables and cook for about 1 minute. Add in the paprika, cinnamon and black pepper and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add in the vegetable broth and salt. Cook covered for about 10 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook slightly uncovered for another 10 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender but not mushy.
  6. Once cooked, stir in orange segments and fresh herbs.
  7. Serve as a side dish with roasted chicken or lamb or serve on a bed of fluffy couscous or rice as a vegetarian dish. Makes 4-6 servings.

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