Kohlrabi in the Raw

kohlrabi 2 11.23.13Yes, I sautéed it. Yes, I boiled and mashed it. A friend roasted hers, and thought it delicious.

But versatile kohlrabi also serves up beautifully when raw.

Peel it. Slice it, or cut it into wedges or planks. Eat out of hand. Toss into a salad. Include on a crudité platter.

Or shred it and make a coleslaw.

Recipes abound online for kohlrabi coleslaw. Mine came together because I had bought Pink Lady apples at the farmers market, and I thought the crisp tartness of the apples would go really nicely with the crisp sweetness of kohlrabi.

Four ingredients—kohlrabi, apples, cilantro, lime juice.

I peeled the kohlrabi, cut it in half, and used my mandoline to shred it, making a soft, snowy pile.

I sliced the apples, leaving the green and rosy pink skin on, then cut the slices into matchstick pieces.

Into a bowl with the kohlrabi and apples, I added a generous handful of chopped cilantro, and the juice of one lime. Salt and/or pepper optional. I added a little, but these flavors and textures—crisp, sweet, tart, citrusy—together were enough on their own.

That’s it, that’s the slaw.

kohlrabi 3 11.23.13That evening, I used it in tacos.

Sautéed thin slices of extra-firm tofu, just til beginning to brown. Sliced avocados and cheddar cheese (because cheddar and apples, right?!).

My husband and I filled warmed organic corn tortillas with all the above. The crispness and tartness of the slaw balanced the other mellower ingredients.

We had seconds.

Kohlrabi as Comfort Food

kohlrabi 1 11.16.13It’s not that I needed comforting when I pulled out kohlrabi again this week, but I liked the texture of it when I sautéed it as slices last week, layering the slices with sautéed broccoli rabe and a thin covering of swiss cheese in a panini.

As I bit into the sandwich, the kohlrabi slices reminded me of thinly sliced potatoes when they’re cooked similarly.

And it’s probably that thought of potatoes that moodled around in my subconscious for a few days that made me think to mash the kohlrabi this week.

So I started off as I would with potatoes. I peeled the kohlrabi bulb (stems and leaves already removed when I got it), then diced, put into a pot, covered with water and a lid, brought it up to a boil, then, lid off, simmered til tender, about 25 minutes or so.

While that was cooking, I pulled out a head of escarole.

Yes, greens again. I am inevitably drawn to greens over and over again. They are often part of comfort-food combinations for me: greens and beans, or greens cooked down and added to something mashed, like, say, potatoes or…kohlrabi.

Raw, escarole is bitter, and can add contrast to a salad of mixed greens. When cooked, it mellows.

And mellow sounded good, as did adding a leek and garlic to mellow along with.

So I warmed a pan over low heat and coated with extra virgin olive oil, adding five minced garlic cloves, followed by chopped  leek (cut in half lengthwise, rinsing dirt from between the leaves, then each half cut in half lengthwise again, and chopping). Kept it over low heat, added a little salt, doing both to keep the garlic and leek from cooking/browning too quickly, while I chopped and added the escarole (cutting the leaves in half, and then chopping).

When everything was in and cooked down some, I seasoned with salt and pepper, I put the lid on, turned the heat up to medium, and allowed it to continue cooking, adding a little water after about 10 minutes when the bottom of the pan seemed dry. Lid back on til greens were tender. All together, between 20 and 30 minutes.

In the meantime, the kohlrabi was ready. Drained that, and put it back in the pot to mash with a potato masher. And, really, it was more smashed than mashed, being fibrous rather than flaky, but tender all the same.

Into a bowl, salt and pepper, and a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil stirred in.

kohlrabi 2 11.16.13So good just like that. A sweet, light broccoli, cabbagey taste, even a little like corn.

By then, the escarole mix was ready. I used about half (the other half will likely find its way into a soup), stirred that into the smashed kohlrabi.

Light, sweet taste of kohlrabi and deeper, sautéed flavors of the escarole, leeks and garlic.

I may not have needed comforting, but it felt good just the same.

Kohlrabi and Broccoli Rabe Panini

kohlrabi 1 11.10.13Kohlrabi is a vegetable I’ve come to look forward to every year.

It intrigues me. There’s always that initial “Just how do I approach this thing?”

Because there they’ll be, several gathered in a basket at the farmers market, pale green or deep purple bulbs, knobby with rounded, raised parts all around where stems emerge like tentacles, and then leaves growing out of those.

The first time I saw one I thought what a crazy spaceship-looking thing it was, though I don’t know what sci-fi movie I might have watched that had a spaceship traveling at warp speed with tentacles coming out of the top of it! I’ve heard others refer to it as alien, which is maybe what I was really thinking.

Even its name is exotic: kohlrabi. And yet it’s simply from the German meaning “cabbage turnip.”

For all its intriguing appearance, it’s as straightforward as its cabbage cousin to use. You can eat it raw, eat it cooked, shred it. You can eat the leaves. You cut the stems from the bulbs. You peel the skin if you think it’s too thick or woody, which might be the case for the larger ones.

Whether it’s purple kohlrabi or the pale green, when cut open they share the same pale interior with a veiny watermark pattern.

I’ve simply sautéed it in the past, had it as a side, and thoroughly enjoyed it that way.

I did basically the same here, but this time made it part of a panini, partnering it with broccoli rabe.

Into a pan that I had coated with extra-virgin olive oil over medium-low heat, I added sliced onion (about a cup’s worth) and several cloves of garlic, sliced.

I chopped a head of broccoli rabe, using the stems closer to the leaves, discarding the rest (really just because I didn’t want a lot of stem in my sandwich). What stem I kept, I sliced thinly on the angle, and then cut the leaves lengthwise in half (and in half again if leaves were very big), chopping those into bite-size pieces.

I also the chopped kohlrabi stems and leaves.

Added the greens to the pan, bringing the heat up to medium, the broccoli rabe’s mustardy fragrance waking up nasal passages as the ingredients cooked down. Covered with a lid for a few minutes to let it all cook through, and removed it to a bowl to free the pan for kohlrabi.

I peeled the knobby parts of the kohlrabi, leaving the rest of the skin to keep a little color contrast. Cut the bulb in half, and then sliced that into 1/8″ thick half-moons.

Into the reheated, re-oiled pan, over medium heat, I added a layer of kohlrabi slices, seasoned with salt and pepper, then added another layer on top of that, salt and pepper again. When the bottom slices browned and all the slices were cooking through and softer, I turned the pieces to get a few more browning. They cook quickly, maybe 5-10 minutes.

I sliced a little swiss cheese, pulled out two slices of whole grain bread, plugged in my panini press, and assembled my sandwich.

A generous amount of rabe on one of the slices of bread, to which I managed to balance seven kohlrabi half-moon slices. Next, just enough swiss cheese for a little melting, but really it was all about the kohlrabi and greens. Topped with the other slice of bread.

Into the press.

What you get when you press a sandwich is ingredients melting into each other…and not just the cheese.

kohlrabi 5 11.10.13Tender bites of the rabe blending with the soft give of the kohlrabi slices blending with just enough richness from the cheese, and the juices from the greens absorbing into the bread.

So good.

Chunky Beet Soup

beets 2 11.2.13I was going to purée it, but when I saw the diced beets and potatoes in the purply red broth simmering in the pot, I decided I preferred it just like that—the beets with their beautiful jewel tone, and the diced potatoes turning a pale orange by then, and on their way to becoming as purply red as their fellow diced partner.

I had intentionally bought the four red beets to make soup. The other two ingredients I already had: a leek and new potatoes. The potatoes because of the creamy texture puréed potatoes give a puréed soup. That’s when I was still thinking I’d be stirring my stick blender into the whole of it for a creamy beet soup.

As olive oil heated up in a pot, I cut the leek lengthwise, rinsing it under the faucet to remove dirt, thinly sliced it, and tossed it into the pot over medium-low heat, moving on to the five small potatoes.

I peeled them, cut them into a dice, and tossed them in as well, seasoning the whole with salt and pepper. Keeping the heat at medium-low, so that everything was cooking, but not cooking too fast til I had all three ingredients in the pot.

beets 1 11.2.13I cut off the ends of the beets, peeled, sliced and diced, all the while enjoying the pattern of color, because raw beets have rings and swirls of purples and reds, and even hints of orange in the right light.

Added them to the pot. Salt and pepper. Stirred everything, turned the heat up to medium, covered the pot, allowing them to cook together til the beets and potatoes were tender.

I added four cups of broth, covered the pot again, brought to a boil, then removed the lid and simmered for a few minutes. Seasoned for taste.

Done.

I ladled it into a bowl, dropping a spoonful of plain yogurt on top.

Was going to sprinkle some thinly sliced scallions on top, but, when I went to get them out of the fridge, there were none. All used up in a salad my husband had made earlier. So, instead, I mini-julienned the last small green pepper from our garden, for a little green on top.

Of course, stirring in white yogurt caused creamy fuchsia swirls to mix in with purple jewel tones. More color play.

And for texture play: buttery beet, fluffy potato, softened leek.

For all its deep, rich color, a light, bright soup to eat.