Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kohlrabi Salad in Fennel Seed dressing

What is that weird looking celery green vegetable that is the size of an apple- even crispy like an apple, but has stems growing from it? The Kohlrabi. The most coveted part of kohlrabi is the bulb-shaped stem, which is usually peeled, then sliced or cubed before being eaten raw or cooked. It is one of the most widely eaten vegetable in Kashmir, yet not known well in the West at all. In fact, in Asia it's eaten raw as a finger food, much in the same way that we eat baby carrots as an Hor D'Ouvres. I think the reason why it's not as well known here in the West is because it's an acquired taste. Kohlrabi has the taste of a cross between an asparagus and a broccoli stem. Sounds appetizing.... hmmm.
Well, I was with you on that up until recently.
Growing up in my Afghani home, kohlrabi was typically served peeled and cut up as Hor D'ourves and served as an aperitif before the main meal. As a child, I could not appreciate this foreign root vegetable that I could not pronounce.  Belonging to the CSA where there is a weekly surprise of vegetables, sometimes unfavorable, I received kohlrabi. I loved the challenge of creating a dish with a vegetable that I had an aversion to as a child. When I stumbled upon this recipe from Ivy Manning's Farm to Table Cookbook, I knew that this salad was going to change my view of this turnip. Kohlrabi, carrots and fennel are fused into a subtle salad that is refreshing and clean. The fennel seed and the sesame oil combine to mysterious effect, as you crunch your way through the salad. There's something about the dressing and the sweet crunchy vegetable batons that combine with the floral heat, creating a fanciful tingle on the tongue.
Serves 4
2 medium red or green kohlrabi bulbs

1 large carrot peeled

1 teaspoon fennel seed or 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 small garlic clove, pressed
1 California green chili (long green pepper) minced


      1      Peel the tough outer skin and cut the stems from the kohlrabi. Julienne the kohlrabi with a mandolin or in a food processor fitted with a julienned blade (you will have about 4 cups), and then julienne the carrot.
      2      If using whole fennel seed, toast the fennel seeds in a small dry sauté pan over medium heat until they begin to brown slightly and smell toasty. Transfer them to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, and grind them into a coarse powder.
      3      In a small bowl, whisk the ground fennel seed, vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, salt, pepper, garlic and chili. Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Zucchini & Mushroom Salad in Chili Lime Dressing

Just came back from Europe- was in Amsterdam and Berlin. Amsterdam is a beautiful city with over 100 canals where homes- as old as from the 1600's were built on the canals. Amsterdam was not always a city of canals- it's reclaimed land from the ocean. To keep up with the growing demand of the ever growing population during the Golden Ages, Amsterdam had to build out.

Berlin..... is another story. Trying to encapsulate the feeling of Berlin is a bit difficult. It's not a particularly beautiful city- there is a certain dreary feeling. After WW II, the U.S. flattened most of the city. So what remains are some historical places- in German called PLATZ. The University where Albert Einstein went to college is still a sought after university. All the statues are still intact. Sadly, the largest synagogue in Germany was burnt down, but what does remain is the facade and inside in a museum of what was. Most of the city has been built up and parts of it look like a throw back to the 1950's.

So I came home this past Friday which is after my CSA delivery on Wednesday. When ever I go away, I make sure to arrange for my share to be donated. As I came home to no food from my summer crop, I had to scrape a meal together with the little food I had left in the fridge. The next day, I ran into a friend of mine- Phil who lives in Kings Point and has a large lush property with tennis courts and along the tennis courts he grows zucchini. If you have ever grown zucchini then you know when it comes in- it really come in. The garden gets taken over by these large yellow flowers that look like they have given birth to zucchinis. So Phil generously offered that I come by and do my shopping. That's where this salad comes in....

This summer salad harmonizes sour and spicy flavors into a burst of freshness. The cilantro is aromatic and brightens the mild flavor of zucchini and mushrooms. An ideal and easy dish to prepare when there is a plethora of zucchini popping up in your local market, which is just about to come. Any leftovers can be refrigerated and enjoyed over the course of a day or two. This recipe comes from one of my most favorite vegetarian cookbooks, 15- Minute Vegetarian by Sasann Geiskpf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay.

Serves 6


3 zucchinis
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
½ red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

¼ cup freshly squeezed limes (3 limes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
Ground Pepper to taste


1 Slice each zucchini in half lengthwise, then cut the halves crosswise into ½ inch slices.
2 Place a steamer basket into a large saucepan. Fill the pot with enough water so that is just barely reaches the bottom of the steamer basket. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, add zucchini and cover. Steam for 5 minutes or until tender crisp.
3 Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, chili powder, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper until emulsified.
4 In a medium bowl, place the mushrooms, zucchini, and onion, and toss. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables, sprinkle the cilantro and toss to combine.

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