vegetables

Learning to Eat: Kohlrabi

by Caroline

Every summer, we visit my parents so we can glory in East Coast summer weather, grandparental (and parental) affection, and the abundance of my father’s garden. Depending on when we arrive, we might be gorging on berries or potatoes, and this year my dad promised both, but he also offered kohlrabi, a crop he had tried for the first time. “I hope you will pack your favorite kohlrabi recipes,” he emailed me before we arrived.

Well. Favorite cookie recipes, favorite muffin recipes, sure, but I had to Google kohlrabi to even know what it looks like. I’ll save you that step:

kohlrabi growing

kohlrabi on the way to the kitchen

So, as it turns out, kohlrabi is something like a turnip and something like a radish: crunchy and refreshing, with a slightly sharp tang. It’s delicious, and pretty versatile: you can eat it raw, grated into salad (recipe below), you can cook and eat the leaves (which we did, flavored with a little soy sauce and sesame oil), you can cut it into sticks and roast them (we did that, too) or make it into a gratin (which we might do when it’s cooler). Because yes, our CSA is now bringing us kohlrabi every week, so it’s a good thing we’ve learned how to cook it, because now we’ve really learned to like it!

Raw Kohlrabi Salad

First, make your vinaigrette; I like Deborah Madison’s mustard vinaigrette, from the indispensable Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone:

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Combine the vinegar, shallots, garlic and 1/4 t salt in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes, then whisk in the mustard, sour cream or yogurt, and oil until thick and smooth. Grind in a little pepper, then stir in the herbs and capers. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Then, peel and grate a pound or two of fresh raw kohlrabi, or use a mix of kohlrabi, parsley root, carrots, and beets — whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand. Dress with the vinaigrette and serve.

Lemony Zucchini Muffins

by Caroline

I’ve written here before about the food my family takes to travel, the food we’ve eaten on journeys, even the food that has greeted us on our return, but not yet about this particular food/travel issue: cleaning out the fridge before leaving on the trip.

Tonight, on the eve of our 2+-week vacation, and with friends coming to stay in our house ten days from now (and so a week before we get home), I had to think carefully about what we should use up and what could stay put. When the eggs ran out late last week, I didn’t replace them; that half loaf of sandwich bread goes in the freezer, as does that end of baguette, sliced into cubes for croutons and tossed into a bag. We’ll use up the milk in the morning, but the last stick of butter will be fine. It’s the produce that’s trickier, of course. Tonight I found myself adding lots of vegetable sides to our pasta dinner: green salad with shredded carrots; roasted zucchini; roasted potatoes; fresh snap peas. The meal looked a bit like this, the kids ate a ton, and the crisper was nearly empty.

Nearly! I still had a bunch of beets to deal with, so quickly pickled them using the recipe recommended by a reader (my sister!); the recipe was fast, and the pickles will keep until our friends arrive.

Last up: zucchini, which our CSA has been providing at a rate faster than we can handle. I’ve made them into pancakes, fritters, and soup; shredded them into salads or tossed them, roasted, onto pasta with walnuts. Tonight, running out of steam, I grated four cups and stuck it into the freezer for a future soup. Then finally, because I always have time to make muffins, made these lemony zucchini muffins from the fabulous King Arthur Cookbook:


2 c flour (I use a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flours)
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 scant T baking powder
1 t salt
grated peel of 2-3 lemons (the recipe calls for the peel of just one lemon, which just isn’t enough for me)
1/2 c chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)
1/2 c raisins (optional)
2 large eggs (I’d run out of eggs, but luckily still had egg replacer from when my vegan niece lived with us last year!)
1/2 c milk
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 c shredded, unpeeled zucchini

Preheat the oven to 400.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon peel in a large bowl. Stir in the walnuts and raisins.

In a 2-cup liquid measure, combine the milk, oil, and eggs. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just barely combined. Fold in the zucchini.

Spoon batter into a 12-cup muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out of the pan to finish cooling.

Some of the muffins will come to the airport with us tomorrow, and the rest will wait in the freezer for our friends, because if we can’t greet them ourselves, at least we can greet them, in absentia, with muffins.

Sometimes Dinner Looks Like This

by Caroline

My family’s vegetarian, so our meals never fall into the classic “meat and two veg” pattern many of us grew up with, but most of our suppers still do offer something recognizable as a main dish and some other things that are clearly the sides. But not always.

I’ve written in the past about a dinner the boys and I make together sometimes when Tony is out, a sort of vegetable buffet, and recently we did a springtime version: pickled carrots, beets, and cauliflower, roasted new potatoes, snap peas, steamed broccoli with lemon, spinach with pine nuts and raisins, fava bean puree, and hummus. A little bread and cheese might have rounded it out nicely, but we happened not to have any, and the kids were happy to dip vegetables into the purees (or even, in Eli’s case, just eat hummus by the spoonful). It felt like a picnic, and on a foggy night in San Francisco, the bright colors and distinct flavors brought a little splash of sunshine into the room.

Pickles!

by Caroline


We joke around here sometimes about how I don’t cook dinner, that I only cook the accessory foods (ie, granola, desserts), and thanks to my dinner-cooking husband there’s more than a kernel of truth in that. I like baking, and also it appeals to my sense of economy (there may be a greater discrepancy between cost of ingredients and cost of final product in baked goods than any other food you can buy at a market).

But this spring, there hasn’t been time for much baking because I’ve been going a little crazy with the vegetables. I signed up for a CSA to pick up at my son’s school (because, vegetables + kid in one stop? I couldn’t resist!), without dropping either our other weekly produce pick-up (which tends to supply more fruit), the bi-weekly mystery box, or even my farmer’s market habit. It’s just hard to resist all this great spring produce, and we’re going to be out of town most of June, so I’m stocking up while I can. And then, trying to find new ways to use all the bounty.

Inspiration came, as it often does, from the farmer’s market, but from a different source than usual: not a produce vendor, but the pickle people! The Pick-a-Peck stand is a regular fixture at our farmer’s market, and the pickles are great: spicy, crispy, delicious. One night before dinner, a friend and I ate an entire jar of the pickled green beans. But I started (sorry, pickle people) to think about how much I was spending on vegetables, vinegar, and spices and decided to cook up some of my own. So far, the pickled cauliflower is my new favorite — it’s fabulously crunchy with great flavor — but the pickled carrots are delicious, too, and the beets are a mainstay for me, summer and winter. I don’t recall any longer where I found the beet recipe, which exists on a scribbled piece of steno paper in my recipe binder; if you recognize it, please let me know so I can give credit:


2 lbs beets
2 c white vinegar
1 c granulated sugar
2 T kosher salt
1 t allspice berries
1/4 t whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick

Simmer the beets in boiling water until tender, 30-60 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool and then peel and slice.

Bring remaining ingredients to a boil, add the sliced beets and cook for one minute. Cool and refrigerate.

These all keep for about two weeks in the fridge, though they never last that long in my house.

Planting Potatoes

by Caroline

Last summer when we visited my parents, the boys experienced the treasure hunt of digging potatoes. This spring, to bring the process full circle (backwards!) they planted. Both boys have done a fair amount of seed planting, both at home and at school, and Eli’s recent picture demonstrates some understanding of the process:

But potatoes are different. They don’t grow from seeds. And since we don’t have the space nor the climate for potatoes here, I’m grateful that my kids could head out to the garden with my dad for a brief farm lesson in the dirt.

I was stuck inside on crutches on the day they planted, so I have no story to relate about the event, but my sympathetic husband took some lovely pictures (you can click on them to enlarge):