One of the hardest parts about trying to eat healthy while traveling is that you’re at the mercy of the food trends of wherever you are, which of course means you can pretty much always find fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables are always in season somewhere nearby, but what exactly is there and it’s quality is always a crap shoot.
But I found that having patience comes in really handy when it comes to finding hidden gems in foreign (to me) supermarkets. One of those gems for me is turnip greens. Both of my grandmothers hail from the southern United States which means soul food runs deep in the veins of my childhood. Though admittedly I haven’t eaten much soul food in the past decade or so, there are times when the craving for it is as strong as the craving for my granny’s corn bread made with actual bits of corn!
Imagine my surprise when I happened upon a big basket of turnips with their greens in tact and in excellent condition.
The thing I love about the fact that the Romanian diet is heavy on meat and cheese is that you can get all types of greens–turnips, carrot, kohlrabi–for FREE! That’s right, because they are basically considered trash or ‘refuse’ you can just rip the greens off the vegetables and toss’em in a bag. I was fully prepared to pay for them and I was doubly excited when the cashier looked at me like I was crazy for wanting to buy “garbage”. Their loss is my win.
Since my diet is a plant based one, it takes a bit more finesse to make the greens rich and flavorful. You can’t just toss in a hunk of dead animal for a few hours so you need to layer the flavors.
But first, wash the turnip greens. I put them in my salad spinner, rinsing 3 or 4 times before they’re ready to go. Peel & chop the turnips and set aside.
Before I add potatoes, turnips, onions, garlic and bell pepper to the pot, I like to add in some cumin seeds for depth of flavor. When they start to pop, add the vegetables and slowly add the greens in batches. I like to add bay leaves for simmering and grated garlic to the water but you should figure out what your favorite flavor profile is before you get started.
Everything, the potatoes, turnips and greens, all cook in one pot so the flavors blend together beautifully. But if you’re feeling fancy, quick fry the potatoes so there’s a nice crunch on the edges that’ll withstand the juicy goodness of the greens.
Hot sauce is totally optional but for me, there’s something about greens and hot sauce that takes me back to Sunday dinners, family gatherings and loud holidays in the Mid-west.
Since we all know I’m focused on getting healthier and losing weight at the moment,I let the dish stand as is but you can always add cornbread to this or even some crispy smoked tofu for that extra fatty flavor.
Since you don’t need to use animal products, this is actually a pretty quick cooking dish. Turnip greens and a lighter and less bitter of the dark leafy greens and the stems are delicious, not to mention packed with vitamins & nutrients.
Don’t take my word for it. 1 cup of turnip greens is just 29 calories, and rich in Vitamins A, C & K.
Just remember to keep a light hand with the salt and if you’re worried about a bland dish, don’t. Add fresh herbs to the pot while sauteing the veggies or make a cheese cloth filled with herbs & spices and drop it in while you simmer.
If you have tips or tricks you think I’ve missed, leave it in the comments!