My inspiration for cooking usually stems from one of three sources:
- Staples, or what can I make that can serve as several meals in a week (legumes, soup, biscuits, etc)
- Adding personal spin to recipes that I come across, such as substituting ingredients (I’m loath to call this “improving on recipes”)
- Necessity, or that moment when you think “how the crap am I going to pull this off?”
In this case, the Turnip and Lentil Pierogi sort of covered all three reasons. I had bought turnip roots at the farmer’s market a few days before I started even thinking about this recipe. I usually oven roast turnips and other root vegetables and then maybe toss them with some balsamic vinegar, but this was becoming very boring, and when food items become boring I tend to not want to eat them for a while. It’s time to break this bad habit.
If you’re tired of eating potatoes throughout the winter, turnip roots are a fun additive. They’re not as starchy as other roots and tubers, and turnips can be eaten both raw and cooked. The turnip root isn’t very nutritionally or calorically dense, but it does contain Vitamin C, which is great for the winter months when everyone around you seems to be sneezing their brains out. The roots have a somewhat bitter tanginess to them, but that tends to dissipate somewhat when they are cooked (I happen to enjoy their flavor). The greens of the turnip are really healthy, and they can be prepared as you would cook mustard greens or collards.
I thought that this would be a good opportunity to unload some of the turnips I had at my disposal, as well as lentils that were just sitting in my cupboard. Here was my ingredient breakdown:
- 2 large turnips, peeled
- ½ cup of dried red lentils
- 1 cup of water, for cooking the lentils
- 1 sweet vidalia onion, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1½ cups of all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups of whole wheat flour*
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used canola)
- 1 cup of water, plus some extra to keep your fingers damp while folding
- *for ease, I combined the two types of dry flour in a medium sized bowl before making the dough
- 2 yellow onions, peeled and cut into slices
Yields about 30 pierogi
Cut the turnips in half and then into slices or small chunks (it doesn’t matter), and place in a steam basket. Place the basket in a pot with maybe an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and steam the turnips until the flesh is soft, maybe 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, you can just boil the turnip, I just prefer steaming. While the turnips are cooking, prepare the lentils in the two cups of water. Cook them until they are very soft, enough where they might not need much handling to turn into a mashed consistency. Warm up the vegetable oil over medium heat and cook the Vidalia onion until it becomes translucent and fragrant. Take care to not burn the onion.
Add about half of the cooked onion to the cooked turnips in a bowl. Using a potato masher or a fork, mash the steamed turnips until they are the consistency of mashed potatoes. Turnips hold a lot more liquid then a potato, so your filling will look a little watery. Add some flour to the mixture one tablespoon as a time until the concoction is relatively uniform and not very watery. Apply the same method to the lentils and remaining cooked onion. At this point, I placed both fillings in separate containers and put them in the fridge for a day or two. This is not mandatory, but I was pressed for time and ended up making the actual dish later that week. If they are a little watery when you eventually make the pierogi, feel free to add a teaspoon or two of flour and remix.
To make the dough
Mix the cup of water and the oil in a large bowl, and add two cups of the flour one half-cup at a time. Mix well with a wooden spoon until the dough is sticky and not dribbling with liquid. Sprinkle a wooden cutting board or countertop (either or is fine) with a few pinches of the reserved flour and lay your dough out. Knead the dough while adding the reserved flour a handful at a time. Keep kneading until the dough becomes a smooth, elastic mass that is no longer sticky, but not dry and crumbly. You will have some reserved flour left over at this point, but this is alright; it will come in handy later. Once the dough is ready, let it rest for a few minutes. During this time, Fill the largest pot you have with cold water and bring it to a boil. By the time you’re pierogi are stuffed and ready to go, the water should be near boiling.
Now, onto cutting your dumplings. Using a rolling pin, flatten out your dough. Roll out the dough so that is it thin, but not so thin that it will tear when it is stuffed, maybe 1/8 of an inch or thinner. To cut your circles, use the top of a drinking glass that measures between 3-4 inches in diameter; this is the ideal size. To keep the cut outs from sticking to each other and to the plate I put them on, I dusted each with some of the reserved flour on both sides, and put a piece of paper towel between each layer of dumplings.
Spoon about a tablespoon of the fillings into each dumpling, or a little less if they are smaller. Basically, you want enough filling that your pierogi will not be very doughy, but not so much that they will burst when they are folded. Dampen your finger tips with some of the reserved water and fold the wrapper in half over your filling. Crimp the edges or, like I ended up doing for a bunch of them, fold the edges sleeping bag style over itself. A couple of them might leak or tear, but try to patch those breaks with a little extra flour, or by pinching burst edges. You can mix the fillings or enjoy them separately.
Using a slotted spoon or a pair of tongs, slowly add the pierogi one at a time to the boiling water, up to six at a time. The pierogi will need to boil for about three to four minutes, but will usually float to the surface of the pot when they are ready. Simply take them out and let them cool for a few minutes. Dab lightly with a paper towel if they are damp. While these are boiling, sauté the yellow onion slices in some vegetable oil to top your final product. There is no right way to serve these, so I ended up dropping each finished and dried pierogi into a bowl and smothering them with the onions. After that, there wasn’t much more to do other than invite my partner over and devour these.
The first time I did this, a few of my dumplings were slightly thicker that I would have wanted, but this ultimately did not kill the pierogi; they just had a more wonton-like texture to them. The few my partner and I didn’t devour made for good filling lunches the next couple of days. Overall, I’m pretty proud of how this recipe turned out. These are great potluck items, or an accompaniment to a Sunday brunch with some scrambled eggs and sautéed greens. I didn’t realize this until I actually took stock of my ingredients, but these are also a fun vegan treat.
I’d like to give a shout out to Post Punk Kitchen for inspiring this recipe, especially how to make the dough.