Kohlrabi 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.
Tender 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.