healthy eating

kohlrabi salad

Kohlrabi salad

Weird Vegetable: Kohlrabi is one of those vegetables that I had not previously used and probably wouldn’t have recognized in the produce aisle until recently when I sought it out for this recipe. The Jerusalem authors open their description of this kohlrabi salad stating, “Kohlrabi is a weird vegetable. We don’t like saying it but it is.”  Um, yes. And they are not the only ones who call out kohlrabi for being a weirdo.

(Sub)Urban Foraging: Similar to some of the other harder-to-find ingredients called for in the cookbook, I had to go to the local farmers market and a couple of grocery stores to find kohlrabi. Once I’d gathered all of the ingredients, I set about preparing the salad and was initially frustrated by the difficulty of first peeling these little jerks before I could dice them to toss with the dressing. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always keep my knives sharp enough, and maybe that was the biggest problem, but peeling the kohlrabi was not the most enjoyable kitchen task I’ve ever completed. My pets might have heard some salty language that afternoon.

kohlrabiPretty Easy: Once I got past the initial annoyance of peeling and dicing the kohlrabi, the rest of the prep was pretty simple and straightforward, a matter of just chopping and measuring out before mixing the dressing with the kohlrabi before topping with baby watercress and sprinkles of sumac. The dressing itself is delicious and I was hopeful that it would mask the flavor of raw kohlrabi that I’m not fond of but that’s not quite how it panned out for me. You can find the full recipe here, and if you are a fan of raw kohlrabi you will probably delight in this salad. The chefs and authors of Jerusalem recommend serving it at the beginning or end of a meal or alongside other salads and cooked vegetables to serve as a light meal.

kohlrabi salad ingredients

Maybe Next Time: I wanted to love kohlrabi, I really did, but I think my distaste for it is linked to how I just do not enjoy the taste of raw cruciferous vegetables, something I mentioned previously in the basic hummus post. I suspect that, like broccoli and cabbage, I might enjoy it if I try it in a dish where it’s cooked. This salad is basically a Middle Eastern version of cole slaw. If you are like my mother-in-law and enjoy raw kohlrabi and cole slaw, you’ll probably enjoy this salad but it’s not one I’m likely to prepare again. But hey, at least it was purty!

Do you have any favorite kohlrabi recipes? Describe them or paste a link in the comments! In the meantime, I might just have to try some of these kohlrabi recipes from The New York Times Well blog because how can you go wrong roasting any vegetable with a little oil and salt?

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Cannellini bean & lamb* soup: Enjoying soup before it gets too hot

It’s (Almost) Too Darn Hot: Since it has already hit 80 degrees a few times recently, I want to cook a few of the soups from Jerusalem before it’s so hot that I can’t bear the thought of soup. I have never cooked a soup with lamb and was looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately, the grocery store I went out of my way to go to, so sure they’d have good lamb stew meat, didn’t have any when I was there. That’s why there is an asterisk in the title of this post, because I had to use beef stew meat (the recipe says beef’s a fine substitute). There happened to be only one package of organic beef stew meat, and even though it was only .75 lbs, and the recipe calls for a pound, I had to go with it because the non-organic stuff came from Harris Ranch, a horrifying factory farm in Central California that I recently had the misfortune of driving past.

Start One Day In Advance: I had planned on making this soup for dinner a couple of weeks back until I read through the recipe and realized it was too late for that because the cannellini beans need to be soaked overnight. At that point, I didn’t have any cannellinis on hand and added them to my grocery list, assuming I could get a bag from my local grocery store. I suppose I’ve never purchased cannellini beans before and I didn’t realize they are not as readily available as most other types of beans. They do not carry them at my nearby grocery store so I had to get them from the same store I went out of my way to go to for the meat.

soaking beans

Simple Preparation: At this point I have cooked around twenty of the recipes from Jerusalem. Most require quite a few ingredients, many are rather time-consuming, all are delicious. This soup is one of the simpler recipes, less labor intensive than others and easy to prepare. Since it doesn’t entail the amount of chopping that so many other Jerusalem recipes do, this one is a great candidate for doubling. I wish I had doubled it because it came out super tasty.

chopped celery & onions(Note to Self) Celery Root and Celery Are Different: It wasn’t until I got home from the grocery store, unpacking the ingredients and re-reading the recipe that I noticed it called for celery root rather than celery. Learning something new every day, I now know that they’re not the same thing (d’oh!) but I decided to just use the celery because I’m not sure where to purchase celery root and it seemed silly to go hunting around at various stores for it when I know that plain old celery would still work in this soup. And it did!  The base of the soup is sauteed onion, celery, 20 cloves of whole garlic, and cumin. Super aromatic!garlic & cumin

simmering soupDelicate and Delicious: I don’t necessarily expect a soup containing lamb or beef stew meat to be delicate, but this one is, particularly when you squeeze a little lemon in it as the cookbook advises. It’s a recipe inspired by the soups prepared by the Yemeni Jews of Jerusalem, famous for their ability to elicit maximum flavor from a little bit of meat and a lot of aromatic ingredients. Although I used about 25% less meat than the recipe called for, I did not wish it had more meat and thought it was lovely as is. I did use a bit more salt than it called for but that’s pretty standard for me. The chefs and authors of Jerusalem also recommend serving it with good bread and zhoug, a spicy Yemeni condiment that they compare to an Italian gremolata. I prepared zhoug to serve with this soup and will post separately about it. It was an excellent complement to the soup, particularly when eaten off of a little of the bread after soaking it in the soup. You can find the full recipe for the soup here.

Cleansing the palate: Parsley & barley salad

Me & Tabbouleh (A Love Story): My older sister Elena is responsible for introducing me to countless awesome things (and way too many to go into here!). One of those things is tabbouleh. The year was approximately 1993 and the setting is some hippie cafe in Austin where Elena was attending the University of Texas. Elena insisted I try tabbouleh. Being a kid, I loved the word ‘tabbouleh’. It just rolls off the tongue so nicely. Since I had (and still have) a serious love of sourness, the first thing I noticed when I tried it that first time was the lemony bite. No two tabboulehs are ever the same, and some are much more lemony than others. This one is not over-the-top with its lemon but it does a nifty job of highlighting the freshness of the parsley. Ok, even though according to the authors it’s not “technically” tabbouleh [see below], it’s pretty close. Since I can never resist tabbouleh, I was pretty excited to taste the finished product.

(Not) Tabbouleh: At first glance, this parsley and tabbouleh salad looks curiously similar to what you might think is tabbouleh. But, the authors explain, people in Jerusalem and the surrounding region feel very strongly about the names of dishes and even though this is definitely tabbouleh inspired, many would not consider it such.

parsley&barley prepped ingredients

The ingredients

Ingredients (click here for the full recipe!)

  • pearl barley*
  • feta cheese
  • olive oil
  • za’atar
  • coriander seeds
  • cumin
  • flat leaf parsley
  • green onions
  • garlic
  • cashews, lightly toasted
  • green pepper
  • allspice
  • lemon juice, freshly squeezed (and don’t you DARE think of using that crap out of a yellow bottle!)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

*Extra Credit for the Hard Core Health Nuts: I just read in the January issue of Bon Appetit magazine that pearl barley is less nutritious than the other varieties since the hull, the most nutritious part, has been removed. I don’t really care about that too much in this recipe since everything else is pretty stinkin’ healthy. However, the authors advise that you can substitute the pearl barley with spelt, farro, or wheat berries, all of which are more healthful.

What Does 3 oz of Parsley Look Like? I have no idea. Nor have I shelled out the money for a fancy digital kitchen scale (for now…) to weigh the parsley to know exactly. I pretty much just chopped up the two bunches of parsley I bought in groups and kept mixing the little piles in with the other ingredients until what I had before me resembled the photo in the cookbook.

toasted cashews

Toasted cashews

Bro, I’m So Toasted: Not that I am complaining about this recipe taking too long to prepare, because at about 1 hour of prep time, it’s actually one of the faster recipes in the book, but sometimes I get mildly annoyed for thinking something’s only going to take half an hour to prepare because I didn’t pay attention to some of the little details. With this recipe, those little overlooked details included the time it would take me to toast the coriander seeds (good luck not letting those little jerks roll all over your counter) and the raw cashews.

feta marinating

Feta marinating with dry herbs & olive oil

Cleanse Your Palate: The cookbook recommends this be served with a rich dish, such as the Chicken with Carmelized Onion and Cardamom Rice. I have already made that dish and just you wait until I make it again and write about it here! Until then, feast your eyes on this food porn video of it being made from the good people of The New York Times’ Dining section. This salad is so refreshing and a great palate cleanser so it will go well with any rich, fatty, meaty dish.

parsley & barley salad

Parsley & barley salad

A Study in Contrasting Textures: Something I have to say about the recipes from chef Yottam Ottolenghi and his crew are that they’re pretty much always a study in contrasting textures. This salad is no exception. The parsley intermingling with the al dente barley plus the salty little chunks of beautifully seasoned feta—it’s a serious party in your mouth, folks. Go ahead, go back up to the link above and cook it yourself!