Tag Archives: turnip


Here’s my take on the brinded vegetables served at Bar Tartine. Even though mine are not nearly as good as those at the restaurant, they have turned out ok.

This exercise began at the farmers market. One of the vendors we especially like had some freshly-dug parsnips. That got me to thinking about brining some root vegetables, and I found some turnips and carrots at the grocery store. I couldn’t find anything green – I guess broccoli would have worked – so I settled on a mix of the four.

Then, of course, I had to drag out my Harsch Steinzeug sauerkraut crock. The task also gave me the opportunity to try out my copy of “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. My daughter, Carol, had given me the book as a gift, and I was so pleased because it has become a classic and the “standard” on the topic in just the short two years since it has been published. The only other things I needed were some Kosher salt and water.

My crock is 5 liters, which is just the right size for me, but it comes in larger and smaller sizes as well. If you haven’t seen a Harsch Steinzeur crock, it is a thing of beauty with a gleaming brown glaze, shaped handles, and a straight-sided lid with a stylish knob on top. It is also an example of German ingenuity and practical design. During my childhood, my grandmother made crocks and crocks of sauerkraut. The process was tedious and odoriferous. As well, skimming the scum off the top of the crocks took lots of attention for weeks.

My crock overcomes all of those problems. Inside are two half-moon weights that fit tightly together to keep whatever you are brining submerged. There are notches in the rim to provide escape for carbon dioxide, and there is a shallow trough around the lip that you fill with water to form an air-tight seal. That cuts down on the smell of fermenting vegetables. Once you have your system set up, and the vegetables start to ferment, you will hear an occasional “frog croak” as a burp of carbon dioxide escapes. That’s reassurance that things are going alright.

Some briners are careful to weigh out the salt and to balance it with enough water to make a brine of specific concentration, but you don’t need to do that so long as you make sure to add enough salt to make a good brine. Even though I peeled the vegetables, you don’t have to do that either, but I thought they would be more attractive with their peelings gone – especially the turnips and rutabegas.

I harvested my vegetables after about ten days of brining. They were still crisp with a briny, slightly pickled taste. If you want a stronger pickle, you can brine them longer, and you can check from time to time to see if the vegetables are to your liking. Just remember when you repack the crock to charge it with more salt and water and to seal the lid with water as you did at the beginning of the process.

So here’s what I did:


Brined Root Vegetables and Cauliflower


  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 rutabagas, peeled and cut into eighths, lengthwise
  • 3 turnips, peeled and cut into discs
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Kosher salt
  • water


  1. Prepare the vegetables
  2. Arrange a single layer of mixed vegetables on the bottom of the crock. Sprinkle generously with salt.
  3. Repeat the process, layer by layer, until you have used all of the vegetables
  4. Arrange the half-moon weights so that they fit together and the vegetables are covered.
  5. Add water to cover the weights with at least two inches
  6. Place the lid on top of the crock, and move to a cool place out of the way of your cooking.
  7. When the crock is in place pour water into the groove around the lid and go about your business
  8. Check the level of water around the lid on a daily basis. Fill with more water if needed
  9. After about 4 4 days listen for the “burp”
  10. You should probably plan on at least 10 days before you check the vegetables. That will be a good time to remove any scum that might have formed on the weights, although there will probably be none or very little because of the air-lock system. If you want to brine the vegetables longer, sprinkle the top of the vegetables with more salt, adjust the water level, and replace the weights. Refill the watereseal around the lid and let the process work for another week.
  11. Remove and serve the vegetables whenever they suit your taste.

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When I was growing up, my mother would make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and put it in a brown paper sack along with some carrot sticks, an apple or orange, and some home-made cookies. When we moved to the suburbs the school had a lunch program. For twenty-five cents children could get a hot meal served in a war surplus Army metal divided tray. For a quarter you got a main dish like spaghetti, a salad, hot bread, fruit, dessert, and a little glass bottle of milk. All the kids loved lunch and lunchtime because the food was good, and it was a break from the classroom. Nobody threw anything away. The reason it was so cheap was that the meal was mostly made from “commodities” which the government had purchased from the farm subsidy program. Cheese, meat, chickens, eggs, butter, and produce were all part of the program, so it was possible to make a tasty meal from high quality ingredients. The other reason the lunches were so popular was that they were made by the “lunch ladies” who usually were mothers of some of the school children. Their kids were often your friends, and the cooks knew everyone’s name. In those days, nobody would dream of wasting food, especially in front of a mother who might tell your mother. Besides, the ladies would often make special treats like home-made potato chips to go with juicy hamburgers and all the trimmings.

My mom became one of those lunch ladies, and for many years she cooked meals which the children loved. Her fresh, hot rolls were famous as were her pumpkin pie and chocolate sheet cake. She loved “her children” and they loved her.

Then something happened. The commodity program shrunk dramatically. School boards across the country decided that they needed to cut payrolls and that they could provide lunches cheaper by contracting with big restaurant firms. The home-made lunches disappeared, and in their place came frozen TV-dinner-like meals that got heated up in the microwave. It was about the same time that a garbage barrel got placed at the end of cafeteria line where kids could dump their uneaten tray and head for the vending machines filled with soft drinks, corn snacks, and candy bars. It was about that time, too, when the decision was made to count ketchup as a vegetable to make sure of the “nutritional value” of the meal, and when childhood obesity began to inch up.

Now some schools have contracted with caterers who have the child choose from a menu of items that are popular with kids. The food is apparently better, but it is still not the solution to having the kids eat a healthy lunch.

In frustration, my daughter Carol decided to do something about it. Peanut butter sandwiches are often no longer allowed. Although she is not really concerned about some of the other food restrictions which have multiplied seemingly geometrically in the last few years –  mercury content of tunafish, dairy products in drinks, estrogens in soy products, gluten in bread – and on and on – she wanted to make a lunch her kids would eat, and so she turned to bento boxes.

Sarah's authentic bento box from the Kyoto train station

She picked up a copy of “The Just Bento Cookbook” by Makiko Itoh (one of this year’s top ten cookbooks on the Amazon list) and bought some bento boxes. Then she prepared this menu from the book: chicken kijiyaki, pan-steamed sweet potato, cucumber and turnip salad with lime, rice, and apple bunnies.

Carol's bento box in the morning

Being the good cook that she is, Carol made a point of seasoning the food to kid tastes and arranging it beautifully in the boxes.

Cameron's bento box in the afternoon

Ciara's bento box in the afternoon

Alas, with all that effort, she felt let down when her kids returned from school with their bento boxes in tow. Now, it’s on to another ploy to get her kids to eat a healthy lunch at school.

RECIPES (adapted from “The Just Bento Cookbook” by Makiko Itoh, published by Kodansha International, 2010)

Chicken Kijiyaki

1 chicken thigh, boned with skin on

1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

  1. Pierce the skin of the chicken with a sharp fork and place it skin-side down on a hot non-stick skillet. Saute until the skin is crisp, turn over and saute the other side until done.
  2. Remove the chicken from the pan, clean the skillet with a paper towel and return the skillet to the heat. Add the mirin, soy sauce, and sugar, stirring until the sugar is melted and the sauce is hot. Return the chicken, turning it to coat it with the sauce. Remove the chicken from the pan, let it cool, slice it, and arrange it in the bento box.

Pan-steamed Sweet Potato

1 small sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon honey

  1. Arrange the sweet potato slices in a single layer in a sauce pan. Add enough water to half cover the slices. Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Bring to the boil. Then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the sweet potato slices are tender. Turn once about half way through the cooking.
  3. Drain the water from the sauce pan, drizzle honey over the slices. Then let them cool completely before packing them in the bento box.

Cucumber and Turnip Salad with Lime

1 small cucumber

1/2 turnip, peeled

1 teaspoon salt

zest of 1 lime

1/2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

  1. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and slice very thin half-moons.
  2. Slice the turnip into small, thin slices and combine with the cucumber slices
  3. Rub the vegetables all over with the salt. Let stand for 10 minutes until they are limp. Then squeeze out any excess water
  4. Add the lime zest and lime juice. Place in a covered container, and refrigerate overnight

Apple Bunnies

1 ripe, red apple

juice of 1 lime

1 Cup water

  1. Cut the apple into wedges and remove the core
  2. With a sharp paring knife, score the skin of an apple with the shape of a triangle, its base at the top of the wedge
  3. Again with the sharp knife cut through the apple just below the skin on either side of the triangle
  4. Gently remove the skin from the triangle
  5. Place the carved apple in the lime juice added to the water to prevent discoloration of the cut apple and so that the “ears” curl and

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