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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Turnip Green Pasta

If you must blink, do it now:

Yes, you saw that: bright green pasta. No, there were no dyes in this recipe, only the natural color of the turnip greens. What sorcery is this? Before I get INTO this recipe, allow me a brief introduction of my dear friends and our sponsors of this post, KC Farm School at Gibbs Road

This is one of my favorite places in the city. This humble farm is the epicenter of education, permaculture, and diversity in the middle of Wyandotte County, my Home Sweet Home. I've been working with this organization for years, and it's always a pleasure. Some of my absolute favorite programs to participate in are CSA programs, and "Let's Grow, Wyandotte!" which is a gardening initiative in which participants get free plants to start a garden, all in an attempt to help reconnect citizens to their food, their land, and our connection with the earth. Are you ready to hear what all of this has to do with turnip greens? 

The items for this week's CSA box from KC Farm School at Gibbs Road consist of broccoli rabe, fresh herbs, and - you guessed it - turnip greens! These are incredibly high in calcium, iron, and - shockingly - folic acid! This is great because I currently need a good amount of that, but that's another blog post. Could I simply take these greens and braise them with chopped bacon, onions, jalapenos, and chicken stock? Absolutely. Could I chop them up and bake them in a big casserole of macaroni and cheese? Of course! But why would I do that when I know for a fact that so many more people have become that much more adventurous with cooking since the Quarantine last year? Don't you remember how everyone was baking homemade bread? Compared to that, homemade pasta is an absolute breeze! So let's get right to it.

Turnip Green Pasta

  • 10 oz all-purpose flour (or 2 cups)
  • 7.5 oz semolina (or an over-full cup)
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 5 oz turnip greens, washed and chopped(that's about 2 cups)
  • 1/3 c water
Combine the flour and semolina in the bowl of a standing mixer, or on a clean countertop. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and get ready for the liquid stuff. Combine the greens, water, eggs, and yolk in the pitcher of a blender and turn it on. Make sure you use the plunger that usually comes with the blender, or stop it a few times here and there to scrape down the sides. Begin at a low speed, and slowly increase speed. You're ultimately going to want to blend all of this until it's entirely liquid, which will end with your blender in the highest speed it can possibly go to, being on for at least 30 seconds during this stage. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that you want to make sure that this is as smooth a liquid as possible, and that it will take at least 2 minutes with the blender on for this to happen. When it's all done, it'll be bright green and ready for you to pour into the middle of your well. 

Fit your mixer with a dough hook and stir all of this together until it is just combined. If you are doing this by hand, simply take a fork and slowly mix it all together, from the inside out, until it's all just combined. Either way, cover your dough and let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. When that time has passed, turn on your mixer to low and let it knead for 20 minutes. Yes, you read that right - I want you to let this knead for a solid 20 minutes straight. Set a timer and come back when it's all done, wrap it and let it rest for another 20 minutes before continuing. Are you mixing it by hand? Don't fret! Here's what you do:

Flour your hands lightly, take the dough and fold it in half over itself. Do that again. Then, do it again. The kneading process for this is honesty best if you simply knead by folding it over and over and over and over again, and you'll do that for five minutes. Then, you'll wrap it and let it rest for five minutes. Then, you'll knead it by way of folding for another five minutes, then let it rest for another five. You're going to do this knead-rest-knead process about four times. Think of it as the day you can skip the gym. Once you've kneaded it four times, you can let it rest for the full 20 minutes and go give yourself a break.

After you, and your dough, have rested, the fun part is going to now begin. If you have a pasta maker, this is where you're going to run the dough through. If you're doing this by hand, you'll feel all the more satisfied by doing it...and I'll tell you how! First thing's first, however: set up your drying rack. The apparatus you choose to dry your pasta can be anything. For example, you can use a lovely beech wood rack you've acquired, or something as simple as few clean coat hangers to hang in your kitchen. No, really! When I was in culinary school, before I had a standing mixer, a pasta machine, or even a real rolling pin, I used an empty wine bottle to roll out my noodles and hung them to dry on coat hangers. As proof of this absolutely ridiculous story, I will now provide you a horribly over-exposed phone photo taken over ten years ago on my Samsung Galaxy at 10:45 at night. 

Hashtag Cursed Image.png

To put this dough into manageable sizes, I cut this into eight portions and floured each one generously before running it through the pasta maker. Generally, I'll fold over the sheets I'm rolling out two or three times to ensure a homogenous texture and roll them through again. I usually repeat this process a few times, just until I feel like I have a texture I'm really happy with. The dough should feel quite firm in your hands, yet still just slightly pliable. No matter what, don't be afraid to use flour. I MEAN that! Your sheets of pasta should be practically floating on a sheet of flour that separates each one. You don't want this dough to stick!

I've got eight sheets of pasta here, all separated with a ridiculous amount of flour between.

I rolled these to the 4 thickness setting on my pasta machine because that is my preference. You can roll it as thick or as thin as you would like it to be because ultimately you'll be the one eating it. I used the fettuccine attachment cutter to make these strips, but you can just as easily roll this to your desired thickness with a rolling pin and cut it with a knife to whatever shapes you desire. No matter what, you'll want it to dry out. 

I realize this makes quite a bit of pasta, so you'll definitely have enough for tonight and a few nights down the road, as this - once dried - stays good for up to 6 months in an airtight container. When cooking it the same day you made it, all you have to do is boil it for 90 seconds before tossing it in the sauce of your choice. While you're cleaning up, let's contemplate flavors!

Turnip greens are, as you can guess, the leafy greens of the turnip root, which is a member of the rose family. Turnips themselves have a very floral quality in taste, so the greens are naturally a hair bitter and astringent while being fragrant in their own right. It is easy for one to conclude that this means that the flavors will translate into the pasta noodle itself, and therefore should be paired appropriately. Bitter is counteracted by sweet and by sour. You can also counteract it with a little bit of fat. So what to do about your dinner tonight? Let's see...

I happen to have some sun-dried tomatoes from last summer, packed in oil. All I've got to do now is sear some chicken thighs in a hot pan, remove and set them aside, then add equal parts of fresh cherry tomatoes and sundried tomatoes in the fond of the pan and cook until the liquid comes out. 

Add in fresh onions, a little garlic, some fresh herbs of your choice, and the chicken back to the pan. Cover and let cook on low heat for 15 minutes while your pasta water reaches a boil. All that's left to do now is to cook your fresh pasta for a whole 90 seconds (or 6 minutes, if it's made it to the dried stage) and quickly toss in the pan sauce. Finish with a little bit of the tomato oil from the jar and you're all ready to eat. 

I hope you've enjoyed this recipe! Remember that my suggested serving of this pasta is only that, a suggestion. It is my true and sincere hope that you take this pasta dough from this green that would otherwise be either used as an afterthought or simply discarded and make something incredible out of it. Cooking nose-to-tail isn't just for animals, you know! If a part of a plant is edible, you owe it to yourself to try eating it. Waste not, want not...right?

Thank you so much for hanging with me for the time it took you to read this. Happy cooking and happy eating!

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