Treasure: the great kohlrabi
Mistress Mary, Quite contrary
How does your kohlrabi grow?
Admittedly, that’s not quite the way the nursery rhyme goes. But it might as well. Just as mysterious to me as things like silver bells and pretty maids all in a row is that vegetable known as kohlrabi. I use the term “known as” loosely, because except for hardcore foodies and those of us puzzled members of CSAs who find these green bulbs in our weekly farm haul, who has ever heard of a kohlrabi? Better yet, who can spell it without looking? If I’ve completely lost you on this one, here’s what a just-picked (but then stuffed in my fridge drawer for four days) kohlrabi looks like:
In the Rolling Prairie Cookbook, author Nancy O’Connor paints a pretty accurate portrait of this comical veggie: “Kohlrabi can be one of those intimidating vegetables if you haven’t been around it much. It has the look of an organic green Sputnik, with a taste like fresh, crunchy broccoli stems accented by radish. The name kohlrabi comes from the German kohl, meaning cabbage, and rabi, or turnip, and that kind of sums it up.”
For two summers now I’ve found these bulbous broccoli-radish-cabbage-turnip-ish vegetables lurking at the bottom of my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) basket, their green skin cool and almost velvety to the touch. They looked, a bit, like something that could be eaten. I poked them. I prodded them. I buried them at the back of my produce drawer. Then I waited a few weeks until the only course of action left was to add their softened, puckered corpses to the compost pile. Then I congratulated myself on remembering to feed my compost pile. Certainly not the treatment such tasty, if unknown, veggies deserve.
Finally, the vegetable gods smiled on the fates of the beleaguered kohlrabi so unfortunate as to fall under my care. In swooped two angels: Jane Dillner of Dillner’s Family Farms, with a recipe for Kohlrabi Parmesan, and Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins of The New Basics Cookbook fame who championed the cause of the Stuffed Kohlrabi. Since Jane’s recipe first awakened my taste buds to the great kohlrabi, let me introduce you, world, to the greatest kept secret in the summer vegetable garden: Kohlrabi.
Guilt drove me to hack up a kohlrabi with a butcher knife. With the meager budget of a stay-at-home-mom at my disposal, I just couldn’t bear to toss one more handful of spare change into the compost pile. Eat a kohlrabi, we would. Since Dillner’s Family Farm website includes favorite family recipes for each item harvested in their weekly CSA goodie box, I’ve tried, and enjoyed, a number of their recipes. I eyed this summer’s kohlrabi warily, as though it may indeed be the extra-terrestrial egg sac it appeared to be, and then consulted Jane Dillner’s recipe for Kohlrabi Parmesan. With only five ingredients and only four preparation steps, it seemed almost possible to eat this kohlrabi thing.
I’m so glad I got over my bout of stranger danger and made the acquaintance of Kohlrabi Parmesan because not only did Little Friend eat the dish by the handful, but I’ve now repeated the recipe and served it at two dinner parties to unsuspecting guests. I’ve hunted down additional bulbs of kohlrabi at the Farmer’s Market, because at 50 cents a bulb, they’re the cheapest (and yummiest) date I’ve had in awhile. I look now at that lovely green bulb, scratch my head, and think, “Who knew?!”
“Kohlrabi, once tasted, can become an obsession,” write Rosso and Lukins in The New Basics Cookbook, “for it seems to exude freshness–almost a peppery version of broccoli…Obviously we’re kohlrabi fans.” Can I join their fan club? In fact, 36 other obsessed souls have actually started a Kohlrabi fan page on Facebook. (Yes, just for fun I “liked” it. Should see some interesting posts turn up on my News Feed now!) After a few successful rounds of Kohlrabi Parmesan, my personal kohlrabi obsession drove me straight into the arms of Russo and Lukins and their Stuffed Kohlrabi recipe. What an easy, delicious, and decorative way to pay homage to kohlrabi. Oh, how I now regret those lost kohlrabi souls tossed to the gaping maw of my compost bin.
I’ll give step-by-step instructions with photos for Jane Dillner’s Kohlrabi Parmesan and follow with the second recipe for Stuffed Kohlrabi. Screw your courage to the sticking place and give this green sputnik veggie a try!
Dillner’s Family Farm Kohlrabi Parmesan
Compliments of Dillner’s Family Farm Recipes
– 3 medium kohlrabi, trimmed of stalks and leaves
– 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
– 1⁄4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
– Salt and pepper, to taste
– 1 Tbsp minced parsley
1. Peel kohlrabi 1/8-inch deep.
2. Shred with grater or food processor.
3. Cook kohlrabi in butter over medium heat, stirring often, until tender, about 8 minutes.
4. Sprinkle with the cheese, salt and pepper. Toss and cook just until the cheese melts, about 1 minute.
5. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
(Makes 4 servings)
As published in The New Basics Cookbook, by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins, copyright 1989, Workman Publishing
With six ingredients and six preparation steps to the recipe, I’d recommend Stuffed Kohlrabi to those of you who have been previously acquainted with kohlrabi, or who are experts in food styling just about anything. If Kohlrabi Parmesan is Kohlrabi 101, consider Stuffed Kohlrabi to be Kohlrabi 102. The presentation of this dish is so gorgeous, you’ll want to save your efforts to please someone other than a toddler who just sinks her fist in the middle and shoves the goo in her face.
4 kohlrabi bulbs
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots (I frequently substitute spring onions)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1. Trim and peel the kohlrabi bulbs, reserving the leaves for another use. (I would recommend sautéing them with olive oil, white wine, and a dash of crushed red pepper.)
2. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, and add the kohlrabi bulbs. SImmer until tender when pierced with a knife, 25 to 30 minutes. Then rinse under cold water, and drain. Set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking sheet and set it aside.
4. Melt the butter in a small skillet, and sauté the shallots (or onions) over very low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Set them aside.
5. Carefully scoop out the centers of the kohlrabi bulbs, leaving a shell 1/4 inch thick (or slightly thicker). Mash or purée the kohlrabi centers, and combine the purée with the cooked shallots and the salt, pepper, and parsley. Fill the shells with the mixture, mounding slightly.
6. Arrange the filled kohlrabi on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until the tops are golden, 30 minutes.
(Makes 4 servings)
Good luck finding kohlrabi at your local grocery store, but a quick stop by a farmer’s market should put you in a land overflowing with kohlrabi. Kohlrabi is a great source of vitamins B and C. It’s oozing with calcium, iron, and phosphorus while also earning high marks in potassium, carbohydrates, and fiber. For other inspiring adventures in food, be sure to visit Health Food Lover, Real Food Wednesdays and Works for Me Wednesday.