Friday, July 2, 2010

Kohlrabi-not so scary after all

Kohlrabi is a seriously weird looking plant. When I was in high school I was addicted to reruns of “Lost in Space” (don’t judge me- I did my homework while watching those reruns). Originally filmed in the mid-‘60’s, ‘way before computer graphics, I think that a magnified shot of a purple (yes, kohlrabi also can be purple) kohlrabi plant would have made great vegetation on an alien planet. Scary.
It may look weird, but kohlrabi actually doesn’t taste at all strange- it tastes like a very mild turnip, without the bitter edge that turnips usually have. It’s slightly starchy, so behaves like potatoes, beets and carrots, and pairs well with all of them. Raw, it tastes a bit like jicama. Kohlrabi can be roasted, simmered, baked into a gratin, boiled or simmered. Look for ones that have a bulb the size of an orange or smaller. Cut the greens off the bulb (they can be eaten, too—treat it like spinach) and store the bulbs and the greens separately in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. Kohlrabi does not freeze well.
This week’s share included cabbage, lettuce, radishes, beets and beet greens, garlic, kale, baby bok choy, cucumbers and cauliflower.  Here are some ways to cook them:

Kohlrabi Braised with Ginger
I had never had kohlrabi before some landed in my box at the farm. Since then I’ve sautéed them, pickled them, pureed them and put them in tons of dishes. This is one of the first dishes I made with them. This is yummy with pork roast or roast chicken.

2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon (about a 1-inch piece) fresh ginger
1 clove fresh garlic (large)
1/2 jalapeno
1/2  tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
4 to 6 small kohlrabi with greens (about 1 pound)
1 cup water, or as needed
1/2 bunch scallions or garlic scapes

Peel the ginger and grate it with a zester or mince it. Peel the garlic and mince it. Carefully scoop out the seeds and veins from the jalapeno (you might want to wear gloves to protect your skin) and chop it. Peel the kohlrabi (I use a vegetable peeler) and cut into 3/4-inch strips. Finely chop the leaves. Trim the scallions or garlic scapes and slice thinly on the diagonal.

Heat the oil in a large wok or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and jalapeno pepper, and stir about 30 seconds. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and salt, and then mix in the kohlrabi and leaves. Cook about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the water, cover the pan, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the kohlrabi is tender and most of the water has evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle the scallions on top, and serve.

Potato, Kohlrabi and Beet Rösti
A rösti is a Swiss potato cake made from layers of sliced or grated potatoes, then fried until crisp. I actually learned how to make a potato rösti from my brother Tim, who lives in Ireland- the place to get the best potato recipes! This would be great for ‘Brunch for Dinner’ with an Omelet with Cheddar Cheese and a salad using the baby lettuces from the garden.
1 bunch beets (about 4 to 5)
1 bulb kohlrabi
1 medium potato
1 small onion or 2 scallions onions
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
butter or oil as needed
sour cream for serving
chopped fresh chives

Trim and scrub the beets and place in a pot of boiling water and cook, simmering, for 30 minutes. Plunge into ice water and peel. Grate, using a box grater (you might want to use gloves to avoid pink hands).
Trim the kohlrabi and peel (a vegetable peeler works best for this) and grate.
Scrub the potato and grate. Place on a clean linen towel and roll up. Squeeze as much of the water out of the potato as possible.
Peel and mince the onion.
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a pan and when hot, but not smoking, add enough butter or oil to fully coat the bottom of the pan. Drop small handfuls (about 1/4 cup) of the vegetable mixture into the hot fat. Press down to flatten. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until golden and crisp on the bottom. Flip over and cook another 5 minutes.
Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped chives on top.

Red White and Blue Focaccia
I developed this recipe as a contribution to a 4th of July party a few years ago. I love the combination of beets and blue cheese.  Serve with grilled sausages and/or BBQ chicken and salads—or cut into small pieces and serve as an appetizer.
 2 Tablespoons fast rising dry yeast
2 cups tepid water (I call this ‘baby bath water'—just above room temperature)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup salad oil
1 teaspoon table salt
5  and 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

6 beets, cooked and sliced into matchstick sized slices
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
1 tablespoon kosher salt for topping

Dissolve the yeast in the water and add the sugar, olive oil, salad oil, and regular salt. Mix in 3 cups of flour and whip until the dough begins to leave the sides of the mixing bowl – a good 10 minutes.

Mix in the remaining flour by hand or with a dough hook and knead the dough until it is smooth. Allow the dough to rise twice, right in the bowl, and punch down after each rising. Oil 2 baking sheets, each 13 inches by 18 inches and divide the dough between the 2 pans. Using your fingers press the dough out to the edges of each pan (this is a very sticky dough- don't get discouraged!). Allow to rise for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle on the mozzarella over the surface. Sprinkle the beets and blue cheese in alternating strips over the mozzarella. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Grilled Baby Bok Choy
Not all veggies do well cooked directly on the grill (you can cook almost anything in a foil packet on the grill). Bok Choy is great this way!
 Small (‘baby’) bok choy
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
BBQ sauce (optional)

Cut the bok choy in half lengthwise. Toss with a generous amount (about 1 Tablespoon per bok choy) of olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place cut-side-down on a medium-hot grill. Cook 5 minutes, turn, and cook another 5 minutes. If you want, brush with your favorite BBQ sauce before serving.

Have a great 4th!! 


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