Kohlrabi, for a change
Kohlrabi is an odd-looking vegetable with an odd-sounding name. Easy to grow and widely available at local farmers markets, this alien-looking vegetable is as versatile as it is weird. A member of the brassica family, kohlrabi has been cultivated in Western Europe since the 16th century, and has its first recorded mention in the United States around 1806. Kohlrabi’s name is a direct combination of the German words ‘kohl’ meaning cabbage and ‘rabi’ meaning turnip. Indeed the taste is somewhat of an amalgam of the two.
This is a vegetable with a lot to give – it will thrive in almost any garden and both the bulb and greens are delicious to prepare. It is extremely low in calories (a whopping 27 calories per 100 grams), high in fiber and an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin B-6, potassium and magnesium. The flavor is similar to a turnip, but sweeter and milder. The leaves can be used as you would kale or collard greens, and the bulb can be served raw or cooked.
Look for firm, tennis ball-sized bulbs without blemishes. Cut off the leaves as close to the bulb as possible. Wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel, and place in a plastic bag. Refrigerated, the leaves will keep for about a week and the bulb for at least a month. When you’re ready to prepare your kohlrabi, cut the stems off if you haven’t already, then use a paring knife to cut the stubs down from the stems if necessary. This makes it easier to use a sharp vegetable peeler to simply peel the bulb as you would a turnip or potato. If the kohlrabi is small and young you may want to forgo peeling altogether.
Kohlrabi can be sliced into thin wedges and served as a crudité with dip, shaved thin and tossed into a salad, or cut into small matchsticks and made into slaw. An inexpensive Japanese-style mandolin is a wonderful tool to achieve consistent, thin slices. As always when using sharp tools, be sure to take your time and be mindful of your fingertips!
To make delightful quick pickles, bring a mixture of 2 cups water, 2 cups cider vinegar, ½-¾ cup sugar (to taste), ¼ cup kosher salt, a bay leaf and some whole spices (such as peppercorns, mustard seed or coriander seed) to a boil. While the sugar-vinegar mixture heats up, pack sliced kohlrabi into clean, wide-mouth Mason jars, then pour in the hot liquid to just below the rim of the jar. Loosely screw on the lid and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
Kohlrabi is also lovely roasted, sautéed, steamed. Cubes can be tossed with olive oil and seasoning and roasted in a hot oven for a simple vegetable side. My great-grandmother used to sauté it in butter with garlic until just tender, then finish with a splash of cream. I love to boil it along with potatoes to lighten up an otherwise starchy mash. If you’re looking to bring a lower calorie side dish to your next potluck, consider making kohlrabi salad instead of traditional potato salad. Steam cubes of kohlrabi until tender, then toss with lemon juice and a pinch of salt. When cool, combine with a mixture of low-fat plain Greek yogurt and real mayonnaise, mustard, diced red onions, celery and chopped hardboiled egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then chill until ready to serve.
Grilled vegetables are a weekly summertime staple in our house, and kohlrabi is a welcome vegetable to add to the rotation. Simply toss ½-inch-thick slices with olive oil and grill over medium high heat in a grill tray or basket. Close the lid and grill about 10 minutes, tossing them occasionally. They should have a nice char on the outside but still be crisp tender on the inside.
Whether you are looking to get more out of your CSA delivery or just to increase the amount of nutrient-dense vegetables in your diet, consider kohlrabi. Just ask your friendly local farmer! Here’s another simple kohlrabi recipe perfect for a meatless weeknight main course.
Kohlrabi Fritters with Tomato Basil Relish
• 1 medium-sized kohlrabi, grated
• 1 tsp. salt
• 4 green onions, minced, both white and green parts
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• ½ cup all-purpose flour (or substitute 2 tablespoons coconut flour to make grain-free)
• ¼ tsp. black pepper (or more to taste)
• ½ tsp. baking powder
• 2 eggs
• 1/3 cup crumbled feta or grated parmesan (optional)
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1/2 tsp. dried dill)
• approximately ¼ cup olive oil, for frying
Tomato Basil Relish
• 2 large ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• ¼ cup minced red onion
• ½ cup sliced kalamata olives
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
• ¼ cup chopped parsley
• 6-8 basil leaves, thinly sliced
• Salt and pepper to taste
Toss the grated kohlrabi with the salt in a mixing bowl and let it stand for 15 minutes. Squeeze the salted kohlrabi on a kitchen towel to remove as much moisture as possible, then return it to the mixing bowl. Add the green onions, garlic, flour, salt and pepper, baking powder, eggs, feta and dill. Mix gently to combine.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Drop ¼-cup scoops into the hot skillet and fry until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.
For the relish, combine all ingredients and toss well to combine. Serve alongside warm fritters. This fresh relish is also excellent alongside fish, grilled meats, even scrambled eggs!
Contact Ashley Meyer at Ashley@realcuisine.net.