Don’t be snobby, try kohlrabi

Here goes post #2 on my journey to cook unfamiliar, “dangerous,” foods that are new to our family.  Thanks for joining us on our adventures!

So the nicest thing about kohlrabi is that I’m pretty sure it would keep just about forever.  Apparently it was originally bred from cabbages, which keep forever, along with its other hearty cousins broccoli, collard greens, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts.  Cabbages are parents with pretty good genes, I must say, although the entire family can make one more than a little gassy.  Ugh.

Here is what kohlrabi looks like lounging on our cutting board…

And here is what it looks like smiling, pinched from the simplyrecipes.com website:

One of the other nice things about kohlrabi is that it tastes pretty good.  I cooked it simply, and I cooked all of it, bulbs and greens included (although separately).  Both parts of it were tasty even without using extravagant ingredients to dress them up.

I cooked the greens into a pesto using the following ingredients and recipe on the advice of the good bloggers at withforkandknife.com.  They used walnuts, though, which I swapped for pistachios.  We have a nut allergy in our house, so we don’t have many nuts kicking around, but I did happen to have some pistachios and I find they go well with pork.  I served the pesto over pork tenderloin after having roasted it in the oven only with olive oil, salt and pepper for about 35 minutes.

Kohlrabi Pesto

1 cup Kohlrabi greens, washed and dried
Small piece of parmesan (approx 2 tablespoons), roughly chopped
2 tablespoons pistachios OR toasted walnuts
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil

http://withforkandknife.com/2011/06/30/garlicky-pork-chop-with-kohlrabi-green-pesto/ 

 

As a veggie side for our pork, I peeled and sliced the kohlrabi bulbs according to the following recipe.  It was very basic, but sometimes a basic veggie is nice if you don’t have many other ingredients to draw from at the time.  It also might be nice for picky eaters.  I also served mashed potatoes to fill the bellies of my picky kids.

Braised Kohlrabi

2 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 medium kohlrabi
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth, or to cover
1 tablespoon lemon juice

http://southernfood.about.com/od/vegetablerecipes/r/r80401f.htm

Overall impressions:  All good!  Both recipes were easy and quick to prepare.  The pesto was just as good, if not better than the standard basil pesto that I also usually make from scratch in my trusty food processor.  It had an extra kick somehow.  The kohlrabi pesto would be nice on pasta even though I used it over pork, and then the bulbs would keep for another meal weeks (months?) later.  As for the braised bulbs, I think I would choose another recipe next time, and I don’t think I would serve it for guests unless I was looking to be cautious of shy palates, and then I wouldn’t tell them it was kohlrabi because the name would scare them off!  The braised kohlrabi had the consistency of sauteed turnip, but shouldn’t be compared in flavour, being much softer.  My husband ate everything without a grumble, which is important for you to know.  He’s usually not grumbly, but he is quick to be skeptical about what he doesn’t know and doesn’t seek out food adventures.

One final interesting fact – according to Wikipedia, this versatile veggie is eaten three or four times per week by people living in Kashmir.  Apparently dishes using mutton are also popular there, so this might be a good pairing for a future meal.

Ratings:  3 yums for the pesto, but only 1 yum for the braised kohlrabi.

Chayote, not to be confused with Peyote

It all begins with Chayote, or Xuxu, as the recipe calls it on Epicurious.com.

A few months ago, I was walking through the “No Frills” grocery store with my kids as I do every week, when my young daughter pointed at a green vegetable and asked, “What’s that?”  If you’re not familiar with the chain of grocery stores where I was, you may be thinking I’m about to tell a cute story about a little 2-year-old girl who wanted to know what a zucchini was, but if, instead, you have a better understanding of the diverse, hodgepodge of a discount grocery store I’m talking about, your expectations may have taken you somewhere different – you might be able to guess that my daughter is slightly older, and that she had chosen a vegetable (fruit?) that left me without an answer to her question.

Instead of just reading the sign and telling her, “chayote,” which naturally would have made her ask, “what’s that?” once again, I said, “I don’t know,” and tried to move on.  She wasn’t willing to give up, and asked, “Well can we buy one?”

I was in a rush, and I wanted to get out of there.  The store doesn’t really pride itself on offering a heartwarming, indulgent shopping experience – you go because it’s cheap, and you get out as quickly as you can.  I knew that a single vegetable that was the size and shape of a large pear couldn’t be very expensive, so I said, “Sure,” and threw one into the cart.  I decided I would take it home and google it to see how to eat it, and that we would all have fun experimenting with something new.  I got home, unpacked the groceries, and threw it into the metal veggie bowl thingy that sits on our counter, which was where I watched the mystery veg/fruit rot for two weeks while I cooked things I was more familiar with.  Even a broken-english compliment from our beloved Brazilian housecleaner (“You eat? Good!”) couldn’t make me figure out how to eat it.

But the chayote refused to give up.  It chased me.  One day a few weeks after I had thrown it out, I was craving shrimp and had a big bag of them in the freezer.  I am a person who rarely cooks the same meal twice, because I enjoy food, and also because I have a bad memory.  I might have made a fantastic shrimp linguine three weeks ago that a party of ten raved about (unlikely, too much fussing to cook that for a dinner party in my opinion, but it’s just an example) but unless I had really loved it and recorded it in my “classics” album, I would be likely to forget about it and just google something new when I wanted shrimp again.  I cook almost entirely on whims and Internet recipe intuition, and it generally works out, and keeps me cooking new dishes all the time.

So I was going through my psychic assessment of shrimp recipes on epicurious.com when I saw one called, “Xuxu and shrimp with chile and lemon.”  For some reason I opened it and found that xuxu was the Brazilian name for chayote.  I decided that finding that weird veggie twice was too much of a coincidence, so I bought a new one and cooked it.  It was delicious!  Even my skeptical husband, who calls any saucy food he can’t identify “slohrr,” said that the slohrr was good.  The recipe had a very fresh flavour and the chayote added great texture. 

Very soon after, I realized that there are many foods in grocery stores that I don’t recognize, and so I decided to experiment regularly and share with others.  This blog had been born!

Now this first entry is getting too long, so I’m going to wrap up, and write “part II” of the story describing my goals and guidelines for what I’m doing in an “about us,” part of the site.   I’ll finish with what will become tradition for each new blog entry, which is to describe a food that was previously unknown to me, include the recipe I used (which I will never have created myself, because I will have no idea how to cook these things), and evaluate what my husband and I thought of it.  I almost always cook separately for my kids, because I like to eat and they don’t, so their opinions won’t be counted until they choose to expand their palates.  Give it another 10 years or so, I guess.  However, they actually did try the chayote, raw, and were surprisingly receptive to it.

New food:  Chayote or Xuxu

How to eat:  Peeled and pitted, although pit is edible.  Raw or cooked

Taste:  Raw, it tastes a bit like unripe melon.  It’s crispy-juicy like a radish or cucumber, and kind of bland.  Cooked it tastes more like a crispy zucchini to me, although it has a slight tang.

Recipe used: Xuxu and shrimp with chile and lemon

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh jalapeño, including seeds
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 medium xuxu (chayote; about 1 3/4 pound total)
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 (14-ounces) jar or can hearts of palm, rinsed well, patted dry, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Read More http://www.epicurious.com:80/recipes/food/views/Xuxu-and-Shrimp-with-Chile-and-Lemon-354968#ixzz1mQOa5PYy

Overall Impression:  Not bad.  I don’t know if I’ll run out and try more recipes with it specifically because it was kind of bland, but I think that the recipe was great and will definitely cook it again.  The chayote might offer variety in salads.

Rating:  One Yum (the recipe deserves more, but I’m not convinced that the xuxu was the reason it was good)

Hey, just as an aside, don’t the bottoms of them look like an old man with no teeth?  Or if you want to get nasty, doesn’t the other end look like a frog’s behind?