In my native California, it’s no sacrifice to eat with the seasons. At any time of year, some sort of juicy fruits and leafy greens are in season; winter means blood oranges, grapefruits, Meyer lemons. Only when I moved to New England at 18, then later to Germany, did I encounter the homelier winter produce of the colder regions, like parsnips, turnips, beets, and kohlrabi.
I found kohlrabi the hardest to like. At first, it just seemed awkward to me, treated by some cooks as a ‘root vegetable’ but actually growing above ground—neither fish nor fowl. When I tried slicing it thickly as a raw snack, as is common in Germany, it just tasted like giant broccoli stems, my least favorite part of broccoli.
Then, while lunching at Berlin’s Prinzessinnengarten, where the community garden’s daily harvest is cooked in a shipping-container-turned-café, I realized the secret to kohlrabi. Slice it thinly and dress it strongly. This lightens the texture and lets the vegetable soak up lots of flavor, so it no longer tastes predominantly like cabbage, but like a savory dish in its own right.
So I’ve invented this winter salad using kohlrabi, to put some fresh crunch on the table in these lettuce-poor months. I think it could also work nicely with green cabbage or even celery root, as it’s inspired by céleri rémoulade and cabbage slaws, but with the brighter flavors of lemon and mustard seed. Since the key is to slice everything as thinly as possible; a good knife or a mandoline are indispensable.
Guten Appetit and cheers to learning to like new vegetables!
Winter Kohlrabi Salad with Garlic & Mustard Seeds
Makes 4 generous side-dish or appetizer servings
2 large kohlrabi
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1/2 organic lemon
Honey or sugar, salt, and pepper to taste
Peel the kohlrabi, removing any fibrous spots. Cut into quarters, then into julienne slices. Place in a large bowl.
Crush the garlic with the flat side of a large knife. Remove skin. Gently heat garlic, olive oil, mustard seeds in a small pan until mustard seeds just begin to pop. Remove from heat; remove garlic to cutting board.
Peel the zest from the lemon half. Mince zest and add to bowl. Squeeze lemon over bowl.
When garlic is cool enough to handle, chop roughly. Add garlic, oil and mustard seeds to bowl. Mix gently with your hands, adding honey/sugar and salt to taste. Finish with a generous grind of pepper.