08 August 2008

Farmer's Market Find: Kohlrabi

In an attempt to 1) be healthier, 2) be more frugal, 3) support local agriculture, and 4) be more adventurous in my cooking and eating, I decided that every time I go to the Farmer's Market, I will buy one type of produce that I have little to no experience with. One of the first things that I tackled was kohlrabi., whose name comes from the German words kohl - meaning "cabbage" - and rabi meaning "turnip."  Around here, its peak season is late spring to early summer, and it comes in both green and purple varieties. If you've ever seen this at all (I hadn't before this summer), you might be used to seeing this cousin of the cabbage without its green leaves, leaving behind a sputnik-shaped root. 

If you are like me, it's always exciting when you can get more bang for your buck with two or more preparations out of a single item. Try to find kohlrabi with unwilted green leaves intact (same goes for beets, to be profiled soon). The leaves can be prepared just as you would any leafy greens such as swiss chard or kale.  I thought that I'd do some thing a little different than a plain braise or sautee, and I was looking to use up some miscellaneous veggies I had in the fridge. I was inspired by kohlrabi's cabbage roots (get it, like origins...except it is a root...hmm, maybe not such a good pun) and decided to use the kohlrabi greens as a substitute for cabbage in pancit guisado  (Filipino pan-fried noodles). This is a pretty easy dish to throw together with whatever veggies you have on hand that will give some texture and color appeal. Traditionally, it's got cabbage, carrots, beans or snow peas. My measurements are inexact because I literally threw this together. But I'll do my best to give you a ballpark recipe (see the end of this post).
As for the kohlrabi bulb, this can be eaten and prepared as you would broccoli stems or radishes. The crisp texture and flavor is similar, even a bit sweeter. Recipes I came across suggested eating them raw in salads or slaws, steamed, pickled, or boiled. I decided to improvise a curry flavored slaw, adapting a recipe for a yogurt-based slaw.  In the interest of trying to be healthy, I used lowfat yogurt as a dressing. But I'm sure you could use full-fat yogurt or mayonnaise and it'd probably be a tad more tasty.

Overall, I'd say that despite lacking robust flavor, I do quite enjoy the crisp, clean texture of raw kohlrabi root. It's something I could snack on by itself. Save for the fiber in the root, the leafy greens seem to be where the nutrition is at. The kohlrabi was pretty cheap at the Market ($1 for a bunch of 3) and generated quite a quantity of food, so it is a good bargain. I just might buy some again in the future. At the very least, I would be able to introduce some friends to a new veggie!

Pancit Guisado
Serves 8ish
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-2 inch slices
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2-3 carrots, julienned
  • 2 cups green beans, sliced at an angle in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced at an angle in 1/8 inch pieces
  • 3 stalks green onion, sliced at an angle in 1-2 inch pieces
  • 3 cups kohlrabi greens (or cabbage), sliced at an angle in 1/2 inch pieces 
  • 1 package rice stick noodles (Filipinos like the brand called Excellent; try to find the kind that are made from rice flour, not cornstarch...which can get mushy)
  • 1-2 cans chicken broth (optional)
  • Soy sauce, oyster sauce to taste
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder
  • Olive oil
  • Annatto seed powder (optional, I didn't use it in this pic)
1) Soak the rice stick noodles in warm water for about 5 minutes to get them pliable. Drain and set aside.
2) In a large pan (like a wok), saute the garlic, then the onions in 2 T or so oil.
3) Add chicken. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and 1 T. oyster sauce.
4) Saute green beans, carrots, celery, and kohlrabi greens/cabbage. You want the veggies to be crisp and slightly undercooked because they will continue to cook in the next steps. If you feel that they're too done, then remove them from the pan and set aside.
5) Add the rice noodles, which should still be a little tough and cooked more after adding chicken broth (water with chicken boullion will do in a pinch), 1/2-1 cup at a time. You're trying to cook the noodles and get them to a consistency that is pliable but not mushy/overcooked. 
6) If you took out the veggies/chicken mixture, return it to the noodles. Add green onions. Season the mixture with soy sauce and oyster sauce. Annatto seed can be dissolved in some water and added to this to give it a nice pale orange color (more appetizing).

Curry Yogurt Kohlrabi Slaw
Makes about 4 cups slaw
  • 3 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and julienned
  • 1 large to medium carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4-1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1-2 T. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 T. sugar
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnut
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper
Mix together kohlrabi, carrot, onion. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix yogurt with curry powder. Add vinegar and sugar. Taste and adjust accordingly. Add yogurt mixture to veggies. Add raisins, walnuts, and cilantro. Toss until all ingredients are well combined. Warning: yogurt dressings will get watery when left alone. So you might have to drain before serving.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

I've never known what the heck to do with kohlrabi! But, you've got some GREAT ideas here.

I'm hosting a "Farmer's Market Report" Mr. Linky. I'd be thrilled if you'd come by and check it out! Perhaps you'd like to submit this post? Here's the link: http://toeverymeal.blogspot.com/2008/08/farmers-market-report-aug-9th.html