Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kohlrabi - expect great things

Sometimes, for some obscure and unknown reason, I feel like an artist. I need some inspiration. I'm not really sure of what exactly it is that I'm looking for, or what is it that I want to accomplish, but I have this feeling that I will recognize the signs when I see them. As part of my inspiration search, I decided to give the West Side Market, in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, a friendly visit. Now, if you haven't been to the West Side Market, you may not appreciate the abundance of both food, and of visitors at the huge location. The Market, even though at a glance it may look like an old fashioned approach to buying food, has actually been growing its reputation on specialty and gourmet items. I was sure something would catch my eye. And it was a trio of kohlrabi.

I had actually never seen kohlrabi before, or at least I never paid attention to it. You see, I grew up in Puerto Rico, where everything thas is edible has a loud presence... And it screams EAT ME! The Kohlrabi is technically a winter vegetable, so you can imagine... To me it was the definition of droopiness. But once again, in the interest of trying to spice things up I went for it.

Kohlrabi is actually quite a common item in the cuisines of central and northern Europe. Like its name suggests (kohl - cabbage) it is yet another cultivar of cabbage. That means that it is an artificially selected form of cabbage, grown for its stem as the part of the plant you'll eat. The rabi part of the name, suggests its similarity to turnips, which I have never eaten either... Which make things interesting... Anyway, the point is that they are supposed to be somewhat sweet. They are also very nutritious stems. There is a good amount of fiber, some protein, and a very long list of vitamins and minerals you may want to check out; they will probably give your multivitamins a run for their money. Some people claim you should not eat kohlrabi if you have thyroid problems, but I don't really know if that's true. Actually, I heard about that after I had finished eating them... So, I guess is a good that I don't have thyroid issues.

So, how to cook it? A soup would have probably been a safe choice. That is, after all, the Euro-way. However, I wasn't really in the mood for it. I looked around the kitchen, and I saw some of the other friends I brought home from the market. Now things were getting fun. I noticied I also had two staples of the Puerto Rican cuisine I don't get to eat too often: a plátano maduro (ripe plantain) and a ñame (yams - not sweet potatoes, not at all). When you see a plantain, you can know its sweetness level based on its color. Green is savory, Yellow is somewhat sweet and Yellow/Black is sweet. Yams are savory and delicious. So immediately, I thought of one of the most common dishes we have in Puerto Rico: viandas. Viandas refers to a a family of dishes made of a collection of roots (yes, those Spanish Roots you see in the supermarkets), green bananas and sometimes pana/panapen (breadfruit) boiled together. The magic of the dish relies on the different tones of each ingredient echoing the next; it goes from the savory taste of green bananas, to the sweetness of the local varieties of sweet potatoes (batata) balanced by spectra of the savory/sweet notes of each of the components. 

I wasn't sure about the boiling part of the process, but I was decided to keep the idea of the viandas alive in my head, as Grandma would have been insisting, had she been alive. However, instead of boiling my goodies, I would roast them. I made 3 kohlrabies, 1 sweet potato, 1 yam, and 1 ripe plantain. I peeled and cubed them, added salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Since I was going all Puerto Rican on the poor Arian stem, I decided I might as well go all the way and and season with dried basil and dry oregano. Then, they went to the oven for 45 minutes, at 425F, and turned every 15 minutes.

When I got them out of the oven, they were beautiful. And their flavors were amazing. The notes of each one of the ingredients balanced the other, and they allowed the taste of the kohlrabi to shine. It definitely tasted better than cauliflower (which I love), and slightly less sweet than a red cabbage/apple salad. One thing to note is that, if you attempt making this, and you are unfamiliar with the yam, you may want to add it to the roasting pan like 10-15 minutes after the rest of the combo go in, so it is less crunchy, and you have time to acquaint yourself with its texture before you have to deal with the crunchy factor. I loved it, though. I also loved the shiraz that stopped by to make sure everything was in order.

Something like this pairs well with a mayo/ketchup combo of a sauce/dip. But in the interest of health, you can skip it, and instead you can combine it with something juicy, like baked chicken thighs, with sautéed onions and garlic. Any tender meat would pair well. Back home, we normally eat this kind of food with codfish, cooked with onions, garlic and olive oil. You can make a simple olive oil/garlic sauce as a dressing, and it would go very well. Actually, the mayo/ketchup dressing can also be lighten up using 1 part mayo, 2 parts greek yogurt, and 1 part ketchup. Additionally you can have some greek yogurt and add your favorite vinegar, and some dried herbs and even some fresh garlic. It's all good. 

By the end of the evening I had made a new friend. And now that kohlrabi has a place in my kitchen, it will be invited back. Normally I don't have roots and plaintains sitting around, so maybe next time the kohlrabi will make it into a soup... Or maybe not. What can I say? ...I'm kinda moody. 


  1. yummmm.... maybe i'll have to try this the next time matt and i roast vegetables?? :)

  2. This sounds amazing! I just got some kohlrabi from my CSA and I am looking forward to trying this! Thank you!

  3. Hi, I just found this and am roasting kohlrabi at the moment. I've sprinkled it with Greek souvlaki herb mix. And chili powder. I like a lot of flavour.

    1. Sounds good then, my friend! I really love kohlrabi's flavor! Let me know how it turns out!