Getting to know crunchy kohlrabi

In Season

May 16, 2007|By Mollie Katzen | Mollie Katzen,Tribune Media Services

What is that unidentified object -- the light-green or purple orb with striations -- lurking among the salad fixings in the produce market? It's kohlrabi, the swollen stem of an uncommon vegetable with hidden, wonderful characteristics.

Kohlrabi tastes like a cross between jicama and a mild radish, and delivers a refreshing crunch that keeps its spunk even when marinated in acid and oil. This trait lends itself perfectly to a slaw, where you want the ingredients to yield just a little bit to the dressing but to retain a crispness throughout.

Once you get it out of its tough, thin skin, kohlrabi's interior is pleasant and smooth -- easy to cut and even easier to eat. And if the leaves are intact and look fresh, don't throw them away. They cook beautifully like any other leafy green -- and combine with other greens really well, too.

Serve this tasty slaw with a sandwich or as a side dish to grilled fish. It's hard to stop eating!

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Mollie Katzen writes for Tribune Media Services.

TIPS FOR USING KOHLRABI

BUYING

According to Cathy Thomas, author of Melissa's Great Book of Produce, kohlrabi bulbs should be firm, without bruises or cracks, and the leaves should be crisp and intact.

STORING

According to the Web site theworldwidegourmet.com, kohlrabi should be wrapped in plastic and stored in a refrigerator, where it should keep for up to a week.

COOKING

"Kohlrabi is a good, underused vegetable," says Patrick Dobbs, executive chef of Tir Na Nog in Baltimore. Dobbs suggests placing peeled, thinly cut kohlrabi in a slaw with a mayonnaise base and flavoring it with garlic or orange. Dobbs also recommends using kohlrabi as part of a salad. "Place smoked salmon over mixed greens and top it with a kohlrabi remoulade." Or, he says, you could dice kohlrabi, potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables and saute them together to create a root-vegetable hash.

[Brad Schleicher]

KOHLRABI SLAW WITH APPLES, RED ONIONS AND HAZELNUTS SERVES 4 TO 6

1 / 2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

3 medium kohlrabi (3-inch diameter)

2 medium Granny Smith apples

scant 1 / 2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons roasted hazelnut oil

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 / 4 cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon high-quality maple syrup

2 to 3 tablespoons dried cranberries (optional)

1 / 2 cup chopped, blanched hazelnuts

Boil about 4 cups of water. Place sliced onion in a colander in the sink. When the water boils, pour it over the onion slices and let them drain thoroughly.

Peel the kohlrabi using a sturdy vegetable peeler. Make sure you get off all the skin -- it is quite fibrous. Cut the peeled kohlrabi into thin slices, then into slender batons. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Cut the apples in a similar fashion, so the apple and kohlrabi pieces match. Place these in the bowl, too.

Add the onions and salt to the apples and kohlrabi, and toss with a fork or tongs. As you toss, add the oils, citrus juices, maple syrup and optional dried cranberries, if using, mixing as you go. Cover the bowl, and let the salad stand for about 1 hour. (Room temperature is fine but if it is a very hot day, refrigerate.)

Serve cold or at room temperature, topped with a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts.

Per serving (based on 6 servings): 214 calories, 3 grams protein, 17 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 15 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 204 milligrams sodium

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