Baby Turnips and Greens in a Moghul-Style Sauce

The finished dish here may photograph about a two, but it tastes a ten.

This is an entry for The Spice is Right #1, the theme of which is “Ancient Spices.” Finally, a blog event that makes sense for me to participate in – no wine or eggs or such required!

To get ideas together for this challenge, I thought I might take a flip through Dalby’s Dangerous Tastes, which sits on my food bookshelves in the living room (the cookbooks have their own bookcase in the kitchen). However, that never happened. It was a chance encounter with some baby turnips in the produce section at Whole Foods on a Sunday afternoon that set this entry in motion.

I had come to the store without much of a list, which can be great fun when the seasons are changing as they are right now. I found green garlic available, and picking that up, I thought I’d get some radishes for a highly springtime-y radish/fennel/asaparagus/green garlic/dill salad. While picking out my radishes, I looked down and saw the smallest, sweetest, greenest-leaved new turnips.

Mr. Man-of-Few-Words Produce Guy was standing next to me, stacking bags of the ubiquitous whittled carrots.

“These turnips look wonderful.”

“Yep. Picked on Thursday.”

“T&D Willey?”

“Yep. Madera.” (About 20 miles away from where we were standing.)

I selected three small bunches. “Well, they’re getting cooked tonight.”

He grunted. I took this as a sign of approval.

As noted in the title, this is a Moghul-style dish. Dishes named for the Moghul period (from the early 16th century to late 19th century – perhaps not truly ancient in the term of India’s civilization, but well before my time) are those that are supposed to have been concocted for and particular favorites of the Moghul rulers. The dishes are generally richly sauced with the inclusion of yogurt in the sauce’s preparation, light on vegetables (the Moghuls were big on meat) and warmly spiced. Though the spices used are undoubtedly ancient, it’s that recipe and cooking method date of provenance I’m using to tie this back to the “Ancient” part of the challenge, rather than focusing on a single ancient spice. The original inspiration for this recipe was a lamb-and-turnip dish I came across in an Indian cookbook and resolved to put to my own herbivorous purposes. It had no greens in it. If you’re buying turnips with tops, you have to use them – they’re delicious.

Continue reading “Baby Turnips and Greens in a Moghul-Style Sauce”

Crazy Plums

Most stone fruit trees look pretty orderly, even with light pruning; plums, even the most well-cared-for orchards, look a little insane. The trees are definitely more gnarled and seem to grow in all directions at once and straight up at the same time.

Japanese plums, the type most commonly cultivated, do not self-pollinate. There are a few ways to accommodate this. Two or three varieties that will bloom at the same time and will pollinate each other can be planted in alternating rows, sets of alternating rows, or scattered regularly in a checkerboard pattern throughout the orchard.

This orchard demonstrates another solution – pollenizer limbs. Using pollenizer limbs, which are a different variety grafted onto the tree, (with two to three different varieties used throughout the orchard) means the whole orchard can be planted in a single variety of tree. And it makes them look a little mad.

The pollenizer limbs are allowed to grow above the height of the rest of the tree, on the theory that bees, who aid in pollination, may find the higher, more pollen-laden limb first and then make it down to the blooms on the rest of the tree, which won’t yield as much pollen, but the successive visit to the non-self-fruitful blossom may cause pollination to take place. Wind also carries pollen; if it’s high up, the idea is it’ll be carried further before it hits the ground.

So how does that fruit all the way up there get picked? Usually it doesn’t, and it’s knocked off the tree early on in the season so that it doesn’t fall off later and damage another part of the tree or the crop.

If you didn’t know there was a purpose to that limb, you’d probably say who let that happen? They provide a bit of a zany feel to a batch of trees – the ones with the limbs will probably get voted Most Eccentric when Senior Superlatives roll around.