One question that is often asked at our farmers’ market is how to prepare the lesser-known varieties of fruits and vegetables like kohlrabi which comes to market from our farmers throughout the growing season. Unfamiliar greens such as tatsoi, chards, and lacinato kale can stump many market shoppers, even a globe-shaped heirloom eggplant can raise queries toward which preparation method is best. So I decided to take this season’s most curious vegetable — the kohlrabi — and create a light, crunchy, and nutritious Southeast Asian-inspired slaw using other seasonal vegetables and herbs available at the East Nashville Farmers Market.
Kohlrabi’s strange appearance may be intimidating at first, but its origins are far from exotic. A member of the plant family brassicaceae, kohlrabi was selectively bred from the same European wild mustard plant that gave rise to household broccoli, cabbage, collards, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Unlike the turnip, kohlrabi is not a root, but a stem. It possesses a mild flavor, and once it is efficiently peeled, the texture is crisp and crunchy, similar to that of an apple. It can be eaten raw and grated for salads or mixed with batter for vegetable fritters, puréed into a creamy soup, or roasted in the oven like a potato. Its versatility and high vitamin and anticancer fighting properties has made this unknown gem one of my new market favorites.
To begin, I veered away from the larger selections that tend to be woody and chose a nice medium to medium-small kohlrabi from Green Door Gourmet. While there, I grabbed a container of fresh snow peas to add spring sweetness to my salad. Next, I purchased a bundle of raspberry-colored radishes from Delvin Farms and two lovely bouquets of both fresh cilantro and sweet basil to give my salad a reminiscence of Southeast Asia. Next, I ventured over to Old School Farm to find some nice mint, and after grabbing some snow-white spring onions from Oak Grove Farms, I headed home and began my preparations.
At home, I had 3 juicy limes, a bulb of garlic, some Serrano chilies, roasted peanuts, sugar, and fish sauce waiting. I began to peel my kohlrabi with a small paring knife until the outside was tender and edible. I sliced the vegetable into thin strips, then julienned each one to create a nice uniform slaw. I sorted and removed the stems and strings from my snow peas, cleaned and cut the stems off of my radishes and onions, and continued to julienne all of my market veggies. I even reserved a couple green onion stems and julienned them to add a dark green color to my slaw.
Next, I finely chopped my herbs and set them aside. I then minced 5 large cloves of garlic and fried them in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil until the garlic began to turn a golden color. I removed the pan and drained the garlic onto a coffee filter (paper towel works fine) laid on top of a bowl or glass to reserve the oil.
For the dressing, I squeezed my fresh limes into a large mixing bowl and added 1 teaspoon of salty fish sauce and 2 teaspoons of sugar for sweetness. After whisking well and adding a julienned Serrano pepper, my salad was ready to be assembled.
I tossed all of my crunchy veggies in my tasty and tart dressing, and stirred considerably to fully coat. After the flavors had distributed well, I mixed-in my chopped herbs herbs, fried garlic, and finished with 1/3 cup of roughly chopped roasted unsalted peanuts.
After tasting, I adjusted my flavors and added another teaspoon of fish sauce and a dash more sugar. If you do not have a taste for fish sauce, soy sauce or kosher salt would work just fine. After a day in my refrigerator, my salad was even better, possessing all the sour, sweet, salty, and spicy flavors that I love. I felt satisfied to create a healthy yet hyper-flavorful dish using all the local ingredients — familiar and unfamiliar — that I bring home every week from the East Nashville Farmers Market. I am excited for the interesting fruits and veggies to come this season… Who knows what will be created next?
Southeast Asian Salad with Local Kohlrabi and Snow Peas
1 medium kohlrabi, julienned (approx. 1 1/2 cup)
1 quart container snow peas, julienned (approx. 1 1/2 cup)
1 large radish, julienned (approx. 1/3 cup)
1 large spring onion bulb, julienned (approx. 1/4 cup)
2 spring onion tops, green parts only, julienned (approx. 1/4 cup)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped (approx 1/2 cup)
1/4 bunch basil, chopped (approx 1/4 cup)
2 mint sprigs, leaves removed, minced (approx 1 tablespoon)
1/4-1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce (or salt or soy sauce)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 Serrano pepper, or any other spicy pepper