Stuffed Kohlrabi

This is an inventive take on stuffed peppers, using kohlrabi instead. I imagine you could use other roots, such as celeriac and large turnips as well. The filling recipe is simple to make and tasty, with Middle Eastern overtones (the original recipe called for goat), though you could use any stuffed pepper recipe–especially for vegetarian/vegan versions. After trying this, you may never look at a kohlrabi the same way again.

4 medium sized kohlrabi
1 T butter or vegetable oil
1 1/2 c diced yellow onion
3/4 lb ground beef, lamb, turkey, or chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander or (ground) fennel or whole caraway seeds
1 t ground ginger
1 t ground turmeric
1/4 t ground cayenne
1/2 t chili powder
salt, to taste
1 c chopped tomato, canned or fresh
water or broth, if needed
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
sour cream or yogurt for serving, optional

1. Peel kohlrabi. Slice the bottom of each so that they can sit without wobbling. Cut the top off each. Reserve tops. With a spoon or melon baller, scrape out the flesh inside the bulb to within a quarter inch of the outer shell. Try not to pierce the bottom. Reserve the scrapings. Combine tops and kohlrabi scrapings and finely chop. Set aside.

2. Either steam or boil the kohlrabi shells until just tender, when a fork can pierce the side. Remove and set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Melt butter or heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add ground meat and garlic and sauté until browned throughout, breaking up any large pieces. Add the spices and salt, stirring well to coat with the meat mixture. Add the tomato and reserved, finely chopped kohlrabi. Cook for about 10 minutes, adding a bit of liquid if the mixture is too dry. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

4. Spoon filling into kohlrabi shells. Place on a rimmed baking sheet or other suitable baking vessel. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the kohlrabi and mixture are heated through. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, if you like.

Slow Braised Cabbage

Modern culinary wisdom decrees that cabbage should no longer be cooked for long periods of time. Those of us who grew up with the smell of cabbage permeating our homes during those bouts of cabbage cooking were thrilled by this edict. However, there are exceptions to almost every rule and this recipe is one of them. The cabbage here is oven braised for a good two hours, plus an additional browning period. Granted, this method is not the same as the submerged cabbage bubbling away on the stove top, and the smell is actually quite pleasant, even gustatory. This is a perfect dish for the long, cold winter we’re having.

1 medium head green or red cabbage, about 2 pounds
1 large yellow or red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
2 – 3 medium to large carrots, peeled if necessary and sliced
1/3 c broth, stock, white wine, or water, plus extra if needed
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 t caraway seeds
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 T red balsamic vinegar, optional (but really makes this dish)

1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease a large casserole dish or baking pan, such as a 9″ x 13″ pan.

2. Trim cabbage, then cut in half. Cut each half into quarters, for a total of eight wedges. Leave the core intact, to retain the shape of the wedges. Place wedges in prepared baking dish, in a single layer if possible, or slightly overlapping. Scatter the onions wedges and carrot slices around the wedges. Pour the liquid and oil over all. Sprinkle caraway seeds and crushed red pepper flakes over. Season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil.

3. Place in oven and braise for an hour. Remove from oven, uncover, and turn vegetables over. Try to keep the wedges intact if you can, but don’t worry if they fall apart. This is more an aesthetic consideration. Add a bit more liquid if needed. Cover again and return pan to oven for another hour.

4. Check the cabbage again. If it’s tender enough for you, then raise the oven temperature to 400ºF. Drizzle, if you like, the balsamic vinegar over the cabbage and return to oven for about 15 more minutes, until the vegetables start to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Potato Salad with Sauerkraut

This is the recipe to make for people who claim not to like raw sauerkraut and the recipe to make for people who love to eat raw sauerkraut. ‘Nuf said.

2 lbs or so potatoes
4 oz bacon, or use 2 T vegetable oil if not using bacon
1 c chopped onion
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 t brown sugar, optional (use for sauerkraut dislikers)
1 1/2 c sauerkraut, drained
black pepper, to taste
salt, if needed
fresh chopped parsley, for garnish, optional, but adds a nice dash of color

1. First you need to boil the potatoes. You can cut them into potato salad-sized pieces or just halve or quarter them, depending on their size. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Boil until just tender. Drain, reserving about 1/2 c of the cooking liquid. (Save the rest for stock or other cooking purposes.) If necessary, further chop up the potatoes. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover to keep them warm.

2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove rashers and drain on a paper towel. Crumble and add to potatoes.

3. Drain bacon fat, leaving 2 T in the skillet. Sauté the onion until softened. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Stir in the vinegar, oil, and brown sugar, if using. It should come to the boil fairly quickly. Pour this over the potatoes and toss to coat. Add the sauerkraut, stirring to combine. Season with black pepper. If the mixture seems dry, add some of the reserved potato water. Taste and add more vinegar or oil if you think it’s needed. You may even want to add some salt. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

Celeriac ‘Bread’ Sauce

This sauce is a riff on English bread sauce, which is a savory sauce that is made with milk and onion thickened with bread or breadcrumbs and butter. Celeriac is the thickener here, making this not only a sauce but a side dish as well. This can be served either warm or cold to accompany main course dishes, such as chicken or pork, or as part of a vegetarian meal. The spices and herbs listed are those used in the traditional bread sauce, though any number and combinations of spices and herbs can be used, depending on the nature of the meal. Again, other roots, such as kohlrabi, turnips, even beets, can sub for or combine with the celeriac.

1 small onion, peeled
4 cloves
2 1/2 c milk or a combination of milk and cream; or milk substitute
2 bay leaves, coarsely crumbled
1/4 t mace
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed, left whole
2 T butter
3 c or so peeled, diced celeriac
salt and (white) pepper, to taste

1. Stud peeled onion with the cloves. Put into a sauce pan with the milk, crumbled bay leaves, mace, and garlic. Bring just to the boil, then remove from heat and allow to infuse for about 10 minutes.

2. In a large skillet or saucepan, melt the butter. Add the celeriac and stir to coat with the butter. Strain the milk mixture over the celeriac (carefully!). Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the celeriac is very tender. The time will depend on the size of the pieces. if you like, you can remove the cloves from the onion, chop the onion and add to the celeriac. If the milk separates or curdles, do not despair.

3. Remove the skillet or saucepan from the heat. Transfer to a food processor or blender and purée to desired consistency. Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm, at room temperature or cold.

Roasted Black Radish Mash

Or other winter radishes. Somewhat of a revelation for me. Of all the ways I’ve eaten radishes, and especially winter radishes, it had never occurred to me to roast (or boil or steam) them, then peel and mash them. This is a good side dish on its own, or go to town and roast/boil/steam them with other roots and mash them all together. I’m leaving this pretty open in terms of accompanying elements. Black radish, butter, salt, and pepper is delicious and my preferred way, but add any number of herbs (dried or fresh) and/or spices as you see fit.

3 – 4 medium (black) radishes
butter or extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cut radishes in half lengthwise. Put cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet and add a bit of water to cover the bottom of the baking sheet (as you would when roasting winter squash). Roast until tender, about 40 minutes, depending on the size of the roots. Alternatively, you can steam or boil the halved radishes until tender.

2. Peel radishes. Mash along with some butter or oil, salt, pepper and any herbs and/or spices you like. Ta-da!

French Apple Cake

This may well become your favorite cake! It’s totally easy to put together with ingredients that are usually on hand; yet the delicious cake that results from the minimal labor belies its simple and humble origin. The secret of course, is the butter. This is a French recipe, after all.

6 – 8 T butter, plus extra for greasing pan
3/4 c all purpose flour, white or whole grain or a combination
3/4 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon; or a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg (1 t total)
pinch of salt
3 – 4 largish apples
2 large eggs
2/3 c sugar
3 T dark rum or brandy; or 3 T apple juice or cider; or 2 T molasses and 1 T water
1 t vanilla extract
extra cinnamon for serving, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter an 8″ springform pan or cake pan or a 9″ pie plate. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.

2. Melt butter and allow to cool.

3. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Peel apples, halve, core, and chop into 1″ to 2″ pieces. Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until foamy. Add sugar and whisk until blended and mostly dissolved. Whisk in the rum and vanilla extract. Add half the flour mixture, whisking until combined. Follow this with half the melted butter, then repeat with the remaining flour and butter. The batter should be thick and smooth. Fold in the apples until the pieces are well coated with the batter. Scrape into the prepared baking vessel and smooth the top.

6. Put the pan (still on the baking sheet) in the oven and bake for 50 minutes or so, until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs on it. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for about 5 minutes.

7. If using a springform pan, run a knife around the edges of the cake and remove the ring. Allow to cook until just warm or room temperature. Serve, of course, with ice cream, dusted with some ground cinnamon, if you like.