What is a Kohlrabi?
Kohlrabi: fun to say and delicious to eat. These bulbous veg are part of the infamous Brassica oleracea species, which includes broccoli, collard greens, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Kohlrabi is basically two vegetables packed into one. The bulb is like a big juicy broccoli stem and the leaves are like a bundle of collard greens. The whole kohlrabi plant has an unusual appearance that may dissuade the unfamiliar home cook from trying them. With the right know how, kohlrabi can be cleaned and eaten in just a few minutes.
The flavors of the kohlrabi bulb and kohlrabi leaves are polar opposites. The bulb has a delicate taste with earthy notes, similar to the tender flesh of a broccoli stem. The leaves have a strong flavor and are full of green bitterness. I recommend seasoning each part like they taste; the bulb seasoned lightly so you don’t hide its delicate flavor and the leaves seasoned aggressively to enhance their strong flavor.
Cleaning and Preparation
It is much easier to work with leaves and the bulbs after they have been separated. Trim the leaf stems at the base of each bulb and continue with cleaning and preparation separately.
To clean the bulbs, wash them under running cold water and leave them in a colander to dry.
To prepare the bulbs, start with peeling the skin. This should be done with a paring knife; if you are particularly strong willed and stubborn then you could use a peeler. Once the bulbs are naked, slice yourself a thin disc and give it a taste before deciding how you wish to eat the rest of the bulbs. Your desired preparation will determine how you should cut the bulb. You could grate them for use in a slaw, cut them into small sticks for a salad or cut them into wedges for roasting. The world is your kohlrabi; try eating the bulb using different methods to find your favorite.
Just as you cleaned the bulbs, kohlrub the leaves free of dirt under running cold water. Leave them to dry before continuing.
The leaves of kohlrabi can be prepared just like collard greens. Separate the thin stem from the leaves. Keeping the stems and leaves separate, cut them both into smaller pieces to make them easier to cook with. Once cut down, you are ready to get cooking.
The easiest method for cooking kohlrabi bulb is don’t. Roasted kohlrabi bulb is good, but the bulb is superb when eaten raw, thinly sliced, and seasoned with some salt. If you must cook the bulb, coat wedges or thick discs with oil, salt and pepper. Roast them in your oven until they are golden brown. If you have a newish oven I recommend roasting them at 450F. I find older ovens tend to run hot so I would recommend cooking them at about 425F if your oven has seen better years.
The kohlrabi leaves and their stems can be sautéed with any seasonings you see fit. Just add oil to a hot pan, cook the stems for a few minutes first then add the leaves. Add seasonings as you cook and be sure to taste the leaves. You may be surprised at the amount of seasoning you will need to add, so tasting as you cook will let you know how to adjust your flavors. I recommend frying some garlic before adding the leaves and squeezing lemon juice on the leafs once they are done cooking. The lightly fried garlic will add sweetness and the lemon juice adds a sharp tang that will go well with the bitterness of the leaves. If aren’t satisfied with the leaves try reducing some cut up bacon pieces in a pan; add the leaves to the cooked bacon meat and reduced bacon fat. Bacon will add both sweet and salty flavors that balance perfectly with the strongly flavored leaves.