Kohlrabi: live long and prosper

Cooks joke about kohlrabi—how it has an alien-spaceship vibe going on, with its bulbous shape and spindly leaves extended skyward like Doctor Who or Star Trek-ready wings.  It looks like something that might descend quietly down to earth in the night—with a crew of tiny, green, extraterrestrial vegetarians on board.

Most Americans would be hard-pressed to identify this odd vegetable with its swollen stem that masquerades as a root.  European-born ex-pats on the other hand, recognize an earthling when they see it—this one’s as commonplace in the homeland as a turnip root or cabbage head.  Kohlrabi is, in fact, a close relative of cabbage, as well as cauliflower, brussel sprouts and broccoli.  And it’s taste suggests the latter, if not its other-worldly appearance.

Looks aside, kohlrabi is an excellent source of Vitamin C, and dietary fiber with an ample dose of B6 and potassium.  Like its brassica brethren it also contains potent antioxidant phyto-chemicals that are beneficial in protecting against certain forms of cancer.  Low in calories and sodium, and virtually fat and cholesterol free, it’s a wise nutritional choice.

Before eating remove the leaves and their stems.  Peel away the outer, pale green or purple skin.  You’ll find the outer layer to be fibrous and tough, so continue peeling deeper to the tender, white, interior flesh.  I find kohlrabi to be much like a thick broccoli stem that, when peeled down a bit, reveals a crisp, tasty inner core. So don’t be shy about peeling.

You’ll enjoy kohlrabi raw or cooked.  Cut it into matchstick pieces and toss in a crunchy slaw; cube and roast it with lots of garlic; add to a favorite stir-fry.  Stir into vegetable soup. You’ll enjoy the firm texture and the mild taste—nothing alien about it after all.

In this week’s bag:

  • Kohlrabi, Sweet Baby Broccoli, Romaine Lettuce, Strawberries, Artichokes, Avocados, Mint, Arugula
  • Bread:  Alpine Bread
  • Snack:  Bialy and Nut Triangle

 Recipes for the Week:

A crunchy vegetable like kohlrabi just screams “slaw”, so I’ll follow the inclination:

Kohlrabi Slaw with Carrots, Peanuts and Ginger

You might also peel it, then cut into cubes, toss with some olive oil, peeled garlic cloves, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees until tender, about 35 minutes, give or take.

Or slice the peeled root and use as a scoop for hummus, avocado salsa or an herby dip.

The first destination that comes to mind for a ripe avocado is guacamole.  Who doesn’t love it?  In our family we often forgo the mashing and cube the green fruit instead.  We mix it up in a less than traditional way, with minced herbs like arugula or spinach (a little cilantro is always nice if we have it), plus fruits and vegetables that you wouldn’t normally think of for guacamole like mango, strawberries or red radishes.  It turns out a bit more salad-like, but still pairs perfectly with a chip.

Avocado Salsa with Strawberries, Mango and Arugula

Spring artichokes remind me of Italy, where they’re a popular first course—steamed and served with a lemony aioli sauce.  Tear a leaf and scrape the supple flesh off with your teeth. It’s a slow and deliberate process—no way to rush it.  And who would want to?  I’m transported to a vine-covered, ancient stone villa somewhere deep in my soul, with each bite.  Try it.

Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Aioli

Quick Tips:

Fresh mint brightens up many a dish.  Chop a bit and add to cooked rice, sautéed vegetables, any green salad or fresh salsa.   Brew up a large handful of leaves in a pot of water for a refreshing after-dinner tea—great for settling the stomach and aiding digestion.

Tender baby broccoli is a sweet, healthy raw snack—add some to a school-bound lunchbox. It might actually get eaten.  It’s also wonderful cooked up with Indian spices in a quick stir-fry. Warm whole cumin seeds, ground coriander, whole black mustard seeds, red pepper flakes and a pinch of turmeric in a pan with a bit of olive oil—just until the spices become fragrant and the seeds darken.  Add some minced ginger or garlic if you like, plus the broccoli, cut into pieces.  Cook until barely browned and tender (adding a splash of water as necessary to keep vegetables from burning or sticking to the pan).  Serve with warm naan or rice.  Kohlrabi would love the same treatment.

Strawberries and mint:  a winning combination.  Chop them up finely and muddle into store-bought lemonade mixed with sparkling water and ice.  Add to a green salad with arugula and romaine—tossed with your favorite dressing.  Spread goat cheese or fresh ricotta on toasted bread and layer sliced berries and a few mint leaves on top.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or sprinkle with lime zest.

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