November 21, 2015
Are we ready for kohlrabi? Hands up, everyone who regularly puts kohlrabi into the shopping cart!
Aha! One person. You can put your hand down.
The name comes from two different vegetables: "kohl" is German for cabbage, and "rabi" identifies it as part of the turnip family. Great: cabbage-turnip. No wonder you haven't tried it yet!
Besides being the cutest, weirdest-looking vegetable around, kohlrabi is also delicious. When you buy it the extra stems and leaves that you see in the picture might have been already sliced off, so it is not quite as weird, being simply a smooth, pale green globe (it can also be purple, though even then the interior is pale green). The picture, by the way, from the seed catalog of The Incredible Seed Company (incredibleseeds.ca), is of their "Early White Vienna Heirloom Kohlrabi." Ain't it cute?
Whether you'll be cooking it or serving it raw, you'll start by removing any remaining stems and leaves,. Then cut it in half pole-to-pole and peel it with a vegetable peeler or paring knive. Place it cut-side-down on a board and slice it thinly with your sharp knife. Try to avoid eating all of it as you slice, it's that good (mild, crisp, and juicy). You can further cut the slices into julienne pieces or dice, then add them to a green salad for crunch. Or to chicken or tuna salad, also for crunch.
My favourite way to use raw kohlrabi is as part of a pre-dinner pinzimonio: offer a platter of raw vegetables, such as thin carrots (not those dreadful "baby carrots"); slices of red pepper, fennel, radishes, and, of course, kohlrabi. Give each diner a small dish of extra virgin olive oil, then pass coarse sea salt and a pepper mill for seasoning the oil. Dip the veggies into the seasoned salt. Eat. Absolutely delicious. I shy away from lettuce salads during the winter (just a personal quirk) but the fresh crunch of these raw vegetables makes a perfect replacement for a green salad.
Cooked, I like kohlrabi best in soups and mashes (aka purees). Dice it and add to any vegetable soup. Cut into chunks and cook along with potatoes, then mash as you would ordinarily mash the potatoes, with milk and butter. But kohlrabi is also good in stir-fries, or grated and cooked quickly in oil or butter with a bit of ginger.
Now why, you might ask, should you even bother? For variety in your diet, is one answer. Another is that kohlrabi is one of the brassicas (as are turnips, rutabaga, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and that whole range of nutritious vegetables). You can never have too many brassicas in your diet. Experiment with kohlrabi, those of you who haven't tried it yet. You'll be amazed.