Thursday, October 27, 2011

What in the World is Kohlrabi?

Kohlrabi is one of those odd vegetables I hardly knew existed until I started shopping regularly at the farmers' market. The farmers bring all kinds of interesting foods to market that I rarely see in a grocery and thankfully, most of these folks also have plenty of tips about how to use and cook everything they sell.

From asking around the market, I've learned all kinds of things about the humble "cabbage turnip" that is kohlrabi. It's technically part of the cabbage family and is more popular in Central and Eastern Europe than here. However, it grows very well in many parts of the US and since it is good for replenishing the soil, I've been told it makes a good rotation crop. The best ones are fairly small. If you get any that are much bigger than a tennis ball, then they are past their prime and they might have a rather woody texture.

When cooked, it does have a distinctly cabbage-like smell, but in terms of texture, it is very like a turnip. Because of this, I find it's good to cook with turnips because it's comparable in texture, but adds some extra flavor. To prepare kohlrabi, you'll need to start by cutting off the greens and then peeling the vegetable itself. The peeled kohlrabi will be almost white. To get you started, I've put a yummy kohlrabi casserole recipe below. This makes a delicious side dish or small supper in itself, and the recipe is adapted from from Greene on Greens, a fabulous but out-of-print cookbook that I found in a used bookstore. Each chapter focuses on a different vegetable and it's packed with good ideas for using up that farmers' market produce.

Note: I was only cooking for 2 so this amount is much smaller than what the recipe as written will actually yield.

Kohlrabi Bake

2 lb. kohlrabi, trimmed and peeled
4 T. unsalted butter
salt and black pepper
1/2 lb. cooked ham, cut into 1 inch strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
4 egg yolks

1. Cut kohlrabi into 1/8 inch thick slices, and melt butter in large saucepan. Cook the kohlrabi slices in butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
2. Use a slotted spoon to transfer 1/3 kohlrabi to a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add half of the ham and sprinkle with half of the parsley. Continue layering and finish with kohlrabi on top. Do not throw out the pan liquids!

3. Add flour to the cooking juices and whisk until smooth. Stir contantly over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. Add the cream and cook until slightly thickened, 2-3minutes. Add the nutmeg and salt/pepper to taste.
4. Beat egg yolks in small bowl and add about 1/2 cup of the sauce. Stir together and then add this egg yolk/sauce mixture back into the large saucepan.
5. Pour this mixture over the kohlrabi and bake until bubbly - about 25-30 minutes. Let it stand 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4-6.

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  1. This looks great! I am heading to the farmer's market tomorrow and will definitely keep an eye out for this. What is their flavor like? Are they savory, sweet, bland?

  2. It is an odd vegetable but it seems like so many people grow them! Your dish looks yummy!

  3. H.Rae - They're very easy to grow and good for the soil, so I think they're becoming more popular!

    DogFur(love your name!) - When I pick out good ones, they have kind of an earthy but slightly sweet taste. It's a lot like cabbage but ever so slightly sweeter. I definitely wouldn't call them bland and in fact I will often add them to turnips because the cooking time is similar and the kohlrabi livens up the sometimes bland taste of the turnips.

  4. We were first introduced to Kolrabi when we lived in Germany 30 years ago. In Germany, they grate it and put it in salads. Sometimes they marinate it in vinegar/sugar/oil first. It's good that way.

  5. Beautiful blog Amy!
    jolene from The Alabaster Jar

  6. Thank-you for sharing, I have seen them but didn't know what to do with it. The lady who entitled grating, I am sure I saw that on a cooking show. I just look out for one as well.

  7. Hmmm, I've seen these in our grocery store quite a bit but never knew what to do with it. Now that i know that it tastes a lot like cabbage I'll have to ask my Mom if we can try one. We love cabbage :) Thanks for being brave enough to explore new foods and for taking us along on the journey. Put up several new posts on my blog if you want to pop over and check them out :)

    In His Love,
    Maiden Princess

  8. oh yummy! love your blog- visiting from Blog Bash!!! look forward to knowing ya better-