Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Effort well spent

Kohlrabi, Fennel, and Blueberry Salad
Summer is easy on us home cooks. There's hardly any need to fuss at the stove, to coax sweetness and colour onto our plates. There's plenty to be had already. That's the thing about summer. The produce doesn't need much help from us--a few seconds' blanching, a pinch of flaky salt, maybe. But that's it. The rest we can just put in our mouths, and it is good just as it is. How crazy is that?
So, lately, and especially when headed out to the farmers' market, I haven't been thinking too hard about what dinner or the next day's lunch will look like. I've taken to wandering the stretch of stands and going home with just whatever catches my eye. No lists, no set ideas. I figure that things will sort themselves out. And usually they do. Paper-thin slices of radish find their way into a tangle of chilled soba noodles, baby mustard greens into a sharp, garlicky salad. So things have been a little more laid-back around here. (Outside the the market season, I always head out with a list, sometimes two.) 
Kohlrabi A mess of mint
But I did make an exception this past weekend at the market. I made sure to pick up what I needed for this kohlrabi salad. I first had it at a friend's late last year. And at the time, admittedly, I wasn't expecting much. Kohlrabi was that one member of the cabbage family I just didn't get. Dark, bitter greens--yes. Creamy, starchy roots--still good. But that strange, saw-toothed bulb? It wasn't something that I'd yet come to terms with. This salad, though, changed that. All evening, I kept coming back for more. (And to be clear, there was competition--these pommes Anna and a sumptuous venison roast.) It was hard not to when it had so much going for it--toasted almonds, slivers of fennel, blueberries, salty goat's cheese, mint, and a serious gingery kick. But make no mistake, the kohlrabi, with its earthy sweetness, its addictive crunch, was at the centre of it all. And I got it.
So though it's been good just eating whatever comes my way, having hardly done a thing to it, the little bit of extra effort for this salad is effort well spent. Some things, like a good bulb or two of kohlrabi, are just worth seeking out.

Kohlrabi, Fennel, and Blueberry Salad
From Stephanie Izard via Food & Wine
NOTE: Choosing kohlrabi. Try to find bulbs on the smaller side, about the size of a tennis ball. They'll be sweeter and not so fibrous. The mandoline. I've never actually used a mandoline for this salad. I've always sliced everything by hand. Things might turn out prettier with a mandoline, but I like the extra crunch of the slightly thicker kohlrabi slices. I also just tend to avoid using more kitchen tools than I really have to.

2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/4 pounds kohlrabi, peeled and very thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced on a mandoline
2 ounces semifirm goat cheese, such as Evalon, Garrotxa or Manchester, shaved
1 cup blueberries or pitted, halved sweet cherries
2 tablespoons torn mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes, until deeply golden. Let cool. 
In a blender, combine the ginger, shallot, vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, soy sauce, and maple syrup and puree. With the blender on, add the grapeseed oil in a thin stream and blend until creamy. Season the dressing with salt and pepper. 
In a large bowl, toss the kohlrabi with the fennel, cheese, toasted almonds and dressing. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add the blueberries and mint and toss gently. Serve right away.
Serves 4-6.


  1. I've always struggled with the mandoline too (getting it out of the cupboard, that is). This salad sounds wonderfully balanced and summery. Will have to try it!

    1. I think I'm probably just a little scared of my mandoline. Likely has something to do with seeing Alton Brown get out a chain-mail glove to use his.

  2. Well, meals lately around your place sound awesome! I'll take the radish-soba noodles or a garlicky mustard green salad. This looks real good, too. I've never had kohlrabi, but you made it sound great with the blueberries, mint, gingery flavors. And man is that a beautiful plate of food. Food in the summertime always looks so pretty.

    1. Thanks, Amy! You're right. Summer food is pretty in that effortless sort of way.

  3. INSPIRED. I'm definitely going to give the kohlrabi a go. No more walking past it, kind of pityingly (poor vegetable that no-one loves) for me!

  4. I've always thought of kohlrabi as a facinatingly purple alien vegetable. I didn't know how to make it shine! This is so lovely and sounds delicious. As a lover of fennel, I'll have to give it a try :) Thank you!

    1. Yeah, kohlrabi is a difficult vegetable to have all figured out. I'm hardly there yet. But I'm pretty sure that even Nigel Slater says something like this somewhere towards the end of Tender! So, this salad, anyway, is a start.

  5. I also am guilty of ignoring the humble kohlrabi! What an inspired salad full of fabulous texture and flavor!

  6. This looks great -- lots of great flavors and textures here! Thanks!
    -Emily K.