Planet Cheese is a weekly blog devoted to everything cheese: products, people, places, news, and views. James Beard Award-winning journalist Janet Fletcher writes Planet Cheese from her home in Napa Valley. Janet is the author of Cheese & Wine, Cheese & Beer, and The Cheese Course and an occasional contributor to culture. Visit janetfletcher.com to sign up for Planet Cheese and view Janet’s current schedule of cheese appreciation classes.
I can hardly complain about the cold weather in Napa Valley. But still, my calendar says soup. Mushroom soup, minestrone, puree of everything-in-the-vegetable-bin soup. If it’s chilly where you are, make soup (the Turnip and Turnip Greens Soup below is a favorite), and then bake up some flaky, tender Cheddar Chive Scones to go with it. Thirty minutes for the scones, start to finish.
I used Grafton Village 2-Year-Cheddar but use any affordable Cheddar you like. A firm alpine-style cheese like Comté or Gruyère would work, too. No need to get fancy.
Avid bakers may recognize this recipe as similar to the cream biscuits in The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham. Marion was famous for those biscuits, which she attributed to James Beard. I don’t dip them in melted butter before baking as she suggests, but they are still awesome. Don’t flinch at all the cream. You’re only going to eat one, right? Or if you’re just having a salad for dinner, take two.
Flaky Cheddar Chive Scones
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 2 packed tablespoons thinly sliced chives
- 1 cup coarsely grated Cheddar, chilled
- Approximately 1-1/3 cups heavy cream, chilled
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a heavy baking sheet with a silicone mat if you have one, or with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and chives. Add the Cheddar and toss with a fork until well blended. Add the cream gradually, tossing with a fork until all the floury bits are coated. Use a dough scraper or spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the dough still in the bowl, gather it and knead it gently, just enough to form a cohesive mass.
Turn the dough out on the prepared baking sheet and pat and prod it into a ¾-inch-thick rectangle. The thickness is important but the other dimensions don’t matter. Try not to work the dough or add additional flour.
With a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into 12 scones. Separate them on the baking sheet. With a pastry brush, baste the tops with melted butter.
Bake until nicely browned and well risen—18 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.
Turnip and Turnip Greens Soup
At my local supermarket, the turnips are always neatly scrubbed, trimmed and displayed, but the corresponding turnip greens are nowhere to be found. I suspect they are removed, either by the packer or by the store, because they have passed their prime. At the farmers’ market, you are more likely to find the turnips attached to their greens. The sprightly greens are your guarantee that the roots were recently harvested. Besides their role as a freshness indicator, they make a nutritious soup when pureed with the cooked roots and a little rice for body. This recipe was inspired by one from Chez Panisse that appeared in Food & Wine magazine. From Fresh from the Farmers’ Market.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for garnish
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-1/2 pounds turnips, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup arborio rice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups homemade chicken broth or 3 cups canned low-sodium broth mixed with 3 cups water
- 1/2 pound turnip green leaves (no stems), sliced into ribbons
- 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot over moderately low heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute to release its fragrance. Add the turnips and rice, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat with the seasonings. Add 3 cups broth, bring to a simmer, then cover and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook 15 minutes.
Stir in the turnip greens, cover and simmer until the turnips, greens, and rice are soft, about 5 more minutes. Stir in the dill. Transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, in batches if necessary. Return to the pot and stir in the remaining broth to achieve a soup-like consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Reheat and serve in warm bowls, garnishing each portion with a thin sliver of butter.