Orecchiette with Caramelized Turnips, Tuscan Kale, and Cracked Pepper from 'The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook'


[Photograph: Oliver Parini]

The first person I knew who ate kale on a regular basis was a Vermonter. This was back in 2005, long before kale was a required ingredient on hop restaurant menus. I tried the green for the first time that year, sautéd briefly with garlic, and frankly wasn't impressed. It took another few years and a little more time at the stove before I turned, like much of the country, into a kale addict. I eat it with pasta all of the time, but rarely varied in my garlic-chiles-greens recipe.

This pasta dish from Tracey Medeiros's Vermont Farm Table Cookbook introduced a new element to my standard mix: caramelized turnips. At first, I was turned off by the idea of pairing bitter greens with a bitter root vegetable, but then I remembered how turnips mellow and sweeten once cooked. Add in some serious maillard action to the turnips, and I realized this was a really clever way to make use of a New England staple crop.

Why I picked this recipe: Pasta plus kale is a staple recipe in my house, but I'd never thought to add sautéed turnips to the mix. Plus, orecchiette is seriously the best pasta shape out there.

What worked: The turnips mellowed nicely once browned and mixed with plenty of fat. I especially liked how they slipped into the pockets of the pasta for hidden bursts of vegetal sweetness.

What didn't: As written, this dish is super rich. (With 1/4 cup oil, 1 stick of butter, and almost a cup of cheese, how could it not be?) It's not exactly weeknight food. You can cut back on the oil and butter by half if you'd like for a meal that is still satisfying without being a gut-buster.

Suggested tweaks: As you can tell from the picture, this pasta recipe will also work with broccoli rabe in place of the kale. You could also add some Italian sausage or pancetta if you want to incorporate meat.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook to give away this week.