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Seasonal Eats: Say Yes to Kohlrabi

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Kohlrabi (Heather Parlato/LAist)

Kohlrabi (Heather Parlato/LAist)
Kohlrabi is that really sculptural curiosity we’ve all seen, but haven’t all taken home to try [every blog post on it starts out with regret, trust me]. It’s a member of the brassica family, which makes it a cousin to cabbage, broccoli, and kale, all grandchildren of wild cabbage. Though it’s got a light, apple-broccoli flavor all it’s own when raw, it resembles more of a delicate broccoli stem when cooked. Kohlrabi is often included in “root vegetable” mixes, but the bulb you’re looking at is actually the stem, making the individual pieces above the stalks which hold the leaves.

I’ll admit, for many years I only looked at kohlrabi, and put off trying it out. I throw my regret hat into the ring with everyone else now though, because it’s a really versatile vegetable that can be shredded into light salads or made into many tasty, hearty dishes, but only has a glycemic load of 3. Kohlrabi is also a good source of Thiamin, Folate, Magnesium and Phosphorous, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.

I wanted to point out, though none of the recipes I’ve listed here talk about using the stalks and leaves, they are edible. I experimented with a mixed vegetable stir fry, cutting the stalks into 1” pieces. They remained crunchy and added a broccoli-like flavor to the mix. I haven’t cooked up the leaves yet, but I’m sure there are plenty of leafy-green uses for them, so go ahead and reserve them for a quick lunch when peeling the main stem for these other suggestions.

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Once you get a kohlrabi or three, most recipes call for a peeled stem, so use a sharp knife to slice away the outer skin. If you’re looking for some fresh raw salads, the natural apple flavor is great with this fennel, orange and chicory salad, and if you like Dijon, a kohlrabi remoulade is a tasty preparation. An Asian twist uses julienned kohlrabi and pea shoots with sesame dressing. Or go hearty with kohlrabi apple salad with bacon.

The firmness of kohlrabi makes it a great raw snack you can cut to any shape for all kinds of dips. Cut it into sticks to dip in thinner dressings, use it as a winter substitute for pitas with hummus, for chips with guacamole, or as a low-carb, gluten-free cracker replacement for hors d’oeuvres.

There are some great roasting suggestions for kohlrabi, such as this simple-but-delicious roasted kohlrabi and butternut squash, or this roasted root vegetable medley. On the other side of baking is this hearty comforting German-style stuffed kohlrabi. If you prefer to cook it on the stovetop, this curried red lentil, kohlrabi and cous cous salad sounds fantastic. I chose to experiment on the stovetop as well, taking a cue from the stuffed kohlrabi recipe using sausage.

Kohlrabi with Sausage and Lemon (Heather Parlato/LAist)
Kohlrabi with Sausage & Lemon

2 Spicy Italian Sausages, sliced or crumbled

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large kohlrabi stem, cut to ¼” dice

2 TB Dijon mustard [I used honey mustard]

1 TB mustard seeds, crushed

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zest of 1 lemon; juice of ½ lemon

2 TBs oil & 2 TBs vinegar

finishing salt & pepper

Fry the chopped onion in oil and vinegar on high heat about 3 minutes, until translucent. Turn down to medium-low, add a splash of water and the sausage, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add the diced kohlrabi, cover and simmer another 5 minutes.

Uncover the pan, add the Dijon and crushed mustard seeds, and toss to coat. Simmer uncovered to reduce the liquids to a thick sauce, 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, toss to coat and cook just until the sauce sticks to the vegetables and extra liquid no longer remains in the pan.

Spoon into a dish and finish with your favorite finishing salt and ground pepper.

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