Baby turnips, sautéed in butter. All pix by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Baby turnips, greens and all, sautéed in butter.
All veggies from The Chef’s Garden. All pix by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

I have never seen Donna so unhinged by vegetables, behind the camera or eating them. She moaned when she tasted. I’d done almost nothing to the baby turnips. I’d sautéed them in a little butter. That was it. Salt. Done.

She said, “Oh my God, if you had a restaurant that served just this with a small medallion of meat, it would kill.”

Baby root vegetables and peas, from Chef's Garden

Baby root vegetables and peas.

It once again showed the truth of what Thomas Keller once said to me: “If you have better product than I do, you can be a better chef than me.”

This began last week when Donna and I had to shoot really beautiful radishes and peas. But it’s February. In Cleveland. Not likely to happen. Unless I cast a glance about 50 miles west to the rural town of Huron, OH, home of The Chef’s Garden and Veggie U. I sent an emergency dispatch to Lee Jones, Chef’s Garden emissary in red bow tie and overalls. He wrote back, “You’re in luck!”

And so yesterday arrived not just the lovely French breakfast radishes, but also the most beautiful baby turnips I’ve ever seen, and the most powerfully sweet baby carrots I’ve ever tasted. And mesclun greens, they way they’re supposed to be, not the slimy stuff in plastic clamshell.

Baby breakfast radishes (the bouquet I should have gotten for Donna on Valentine's Day).

Baby breakfast radishes (the bouquet I should have gotten for Donna on Valentine’s Day).

I couldn’t stop eating them, and Donna couldn’t tear herself away from them. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited about vegetables,” she said.

You can see why.

Baby turnips.

Baby turnips.

As with so many great purveyors, the Jones family never set out to be who they are now. They started as a commercial farm, but when a hailstorm wiped them out, Bob Sr. and his two sons had to say, “The farm is gone—who are we now? Sell the farm or start fresh?” When a Cleveland cook and food writer, Iris Bailin, asked Lee Jones for squash blossoms, little-known luxuries at the time, they sensed a market in the chef world and decided to grow specifically for chefs. Once people like Keller, Alain Ducasse, and their most vocal advocate, the late Charlie Trotter, began to praise their work, off they took.

And I’ve just learned they’re helping to raise money for Team USA’s bid for a medal in the Bocuse d’Or by hosting a dinner, March 15th, prepared by some of the country’s leading chefs, including Eli Kaimeh of per se in NYC, Curtis Duffy of Grace in Chicago, and our own Jonathon Sawyer. (Call 419-499-7500 for info or reservations.)

Thank you, Chef’s Garden!

Baby carrots, from Chef's Garden,

Baby carrots, from Chef’s Garden,

Other links you may like:

© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

 

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21 Wonderful responses to “Vegetable Porn”

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    Even baby veggies are impressive in this NEO winter. I assume they are from high tunnels that are somewhat/somehow heated? Do they only grow in Huron or do they have other spots that help them supply chefs during our winter?

  • Laura Jane

    I joined a CSA this past summer, and they keep it going through the winter. I had no idea I could get such fantastic squash and root vegetables in Chicago all winter long, and the CSA in general has really changed the way I cook. I’m really looking forward to what spring brings.

      • Laura Jane

        Hi S, a CSA is community supported agriculture. You get a weekly (or bi-weekly depending on the season) box of vegetables, so you truly cook with the seasons. It is a great way to support local, small farms and get your hands on fantastic produce.

  • donna

    OK—I hardly ever comment but today I must. When I put these precious diamonds in my mouth, it was truly a revolution in my mouth. Yes—Michael prepared them great but I have to say even without butter—maybe just salt—these little guys SING!
    I will never ever forget—Donna

  • May

    What a delightful story! We have a very fertile farm in the Ottawa Valley (yes, that Ottawa, capital of Canada and the Great White North: currently under 4′ of snow…), and I would LOVE to grow quality veg for the local restaurants: it’s got to be more rewarding than acres of corn ‘n’ beans. Off to plot: thanks for the story, Michael!

  • Jamie simpson

    Wow. Thank you for sharing michael. I get the pleasure of cooking with these vegetables every day as the resident chef here at the Chef’s Garden. Donna, Ive actually called them revelation turnips. Its exciting to read about synchronous moments shared in separate kitchens. love it.

  • allen

    Just a wee, wee little chicken fat instead of butter and the song is so much lovelier.

  • Michael Villar

    Beautiful pics. I’m glad that someone’s raising money for the US to participate in the Bocuse. It’s the Olympic equivalent of cuisine.

  • Allen

    Psssst….. Friday Cocktail porn time.
    I’m going with a compromised Sidecar.
    Brandy, lime juice and cherry Grand Marinier.
    Great mental douche for the week

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