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Today’s Special: Kohlrabi not much to look at, but it sure is tasty

March 14, 2017 - 10:21am

You have probably seen kohlrabi, also called cabbage turnip, in the supermarket or at farmer’s markets recently and wondered what to do with it.

This knobby purple or green bulbous vegetable with spiky stems will not win any awards for beauty, and perhaps that’s why this versatile and delicious vegetable is underappreciated.

Its distinctive flavor — think cabbage and broccoli — is too good to ignore. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked, and tastes a little like broccoli stems, but milder and somewhat sweeter.

You can steam, boil, bake, grill, or roast kohlrabi after peeling away the outer thick skin first. Raw kohlrabi can be sliced in a salad, grated into a slaw or simply thinly sliced on a mandoline and drizzled with a little olive oil and salt.

When served raw, it has a crisp texture and a mild peppery bite sort of like a sweet radish. It makes a delicious pureed soup on its own, or it can be added to soups, such as cream of potato, cream of broccoli or vegetable soup for a distinctive flavor.

The leaves are edible and can be cooked up like kale or collard greens.

Along with other cruciferous vegetables, kohlrabi is low in calories and packed with vitamin C and potassium.

Choose kohlrabi with unblemished leaves and a bulb that’s heavy for its size; the bulb should not be cracked. Cut off leaves, wrap them in a damp paper towel, and place in an unsealed plastic bag. Leaves can be refrigerated for three to four days; the bulb stays fresh for about 2 weeks.

Kohlrabi carpaccio

Adapted from “The Vegetable Butcher” by Cara Mangini, Workman Publishing Company ($29.99); serves 6.

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra as needed

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound kohlrabi, peeled deeply, thinly sliced on a mandoline into 1/16-inch-thick rounds or half-moons

1 large garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

10-12 ounces collard greens or kale; sliced into 1/4-inch-thick ribbons (about 6 cups)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil

Flaked sea salt

1 Bosc pear, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/3 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Manchego, ricotta salata, or aged Jack cheese, for topping

Whisk together lime juice, balsamic vinegar, honey, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper in a medium-size bowl. Slowly whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until combined. Place kohlrabi slices in vinaigrette and set aside to marinate.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add wet collards. Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and cook, turning greens with tongs, until just starting to wilt, about 1 minute. Add 1/3 cup of water (or up to 1/2 cup if your collards are not slightly wet from rinsing).

Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the greens are tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Uncover pan and continue to cook until any remaining water evaporates. Add butter or olive oil and cook, turning collards until coated, about 1 minute.

Set out up to six salad plates to compose each salad individually. Lift kohlrabi from vinaigrette with tongs, allowing excess vinaigrette to drip off, and transfer about 6 slices to each plate (or enough to cover it with some overlap). Sprinkle kohlrabi with flaked sea salt and top with a heap of greens, about 1/4 cup per plate. Sprinkle with pear and pistachios and lightly drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.

Use a vegetable peeler to shave slivers of cheese over the top. Finish with more flaked sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-host of Food &Wine Talk on southfloridagourmet.com. She writes for the Miami Herald (TNS).

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