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.

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