Ever had kohlrabi? I came across it at Eastern Market in Detroit, and I was in the mood to try something new, so I bought it. (Full Disclosure: I’m pretty much always in the mood to try something new.)
Kohlrabi is a vegetable, related to cabbage, broccoli, and kale. The name is German in origin, loosely translated as ‘cabbage turnip’, and that’s fitting, because it looks like a cross between the two. It’s popular in Germany, and German-speaking countries, as well as parts of Vietnam.
The bulb is the main edible part, and often you only see the bulbs at the store. These kohlrabi came with the leaves, too, and those can be eaten as well, if they’re cooked.
The inside of a kohlrabi looks like a turnip, and has the same texture and feel.
The outermost green layer is thick and fibrous, and it can be removed with a vegetable peeler and some elbow grease.
I read that kohlrabi can be eaten raw, so that’s how I tried it first.
While it has the texture of consistency of a turnip, it’s taste is similar to broccoli trunks, although perhaps a touch sweeter and milder. It had a nice snap, like jicama.
Kohlrabi is very low in calories: a half-cup has around 25 calories. It has a surprisingly high amount of vitamin C – that same half cup will get you 70% of your daily requirement. Like turnips or parsnips, it’s a good low-cal, low-carb alternative to potatoes.
So I had three peeled kohlrabi bulbs and a pile of greens… what was I gonna do with them? I wanted to get a full kohlrabi experience, so I cooked it three ways!
RECIPE #1 – ROASTED KOHLRABI:
Before I go on, I just wanted to toot toot toot my own horn about what a recipe machine I’ve been lately. This is my third recipe post in a week! (Didja miss the other two? Check out my recipes for Shrimp Primavera a la David and Halibut with Fig and Caramelized Onion Sauce.)
Most vegetables are good roasted, so it was a no-brainer to try to roast kohlrabi. I cut one kohlrabi bulb into pieces and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
They went into the oven (toaster oven, actually) for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees, and during that time they shriveled up and got some color.
And that’s it! Done! They were delicious. Delicate, tender, and the bit of char from the oven added great flavor. On to:
RECIPE #2 – SAUTEED KOHLRABI GREENS:
Since the leaves are edible, I wanted to eat the leaves! I presumed the thick ribs wouldn’t taste too good, so I cut them out, like you would with kale.
After rinsing the leaves and giving them a whirl in the salad spinner, I chopped them in thin-ish ribbons. I ended up with about 12 ounces of greens.
In a large skillet, I heated 1 tablespoon olive oil and, when it was hot, added 1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic. After a minute or so, I added the greens. Then, a few minutes later, after the greens started to soften and wilt a little, I added:
- 1 cup chicken stock
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Pepper (I didn’t add salt because the stock was high in sodium.)
- 1 tablespoon each of Curry and Turmeric. (Why not go in an Indian direction?)
After 10-15 minutes, I tried it, and it was a little bitter. So I sweetened the dish by adding 1.5 tablespoons or orange marmalade.
I think kohlrabi greens, prepared this way at least, might be a bit of an acquired taste. That’s what I told my dad, who doesn’t care for cooked spinach, but he liked it. My mom, on the other hand, took one bite and passed on eating any more. (I liked it, for the record.)
RECIPE #3 – KOHLRABI CAKES:
Saving the best for last! And no, these are’tn dessert cakes. They’re veggie patties, like potato pancakes. And like potato pancakes, it starts with a lot of grating. I grated two kohlrabi bulbs.
They went into a bowl, along with:
- 1/2 cup onion, also grated (a shallot would also work great)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon each fresh parsley and basil, minced.
Mix it all together, and using your hands, shape the mixture into 6 balls, like you would meatballs.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet, and when it’s melted, add three of the balls. Use the back of a spatula to gently flatten them into patties.
They need about 3 minutes on each side, and then they can be transferred to a paper-towel-lined plate, where the excess butter can drain. I added one more tablespoon butter before frying the other three, just because the first three soaked up a lot of the butter.
Don’t these look amazing? Guess what! They are! They had a nice crust, but soft in the center, and the herbs, onion and cheese added lots of depth of flavor.
I cooked all three of these recipes at the same time, along with a simple pan-seared chicken breast. (It was really simple: I marinated the breasts in some light Italian salad dressing for 20 minutes and cooked them. My breast was 6 ounces before cooking.)
Dinner is served!
Filling, healthy, and a nice representation of the versatility of kohlrabi. Ready for the calorie counts? That plate has 546 calories. Two kohlrabi cakes are 214 calories. One-third of a roasted kohlrabi bulb is 55 calories. The greens have 96 calories, and the chicken breast has 182. The total fat grams for the whole plate is 30 (almost all of it coming from the butter and oil), and there’s 44 grams of protein.
Keep it up, David!