Kohlrabi. It’s one of those alien-like vegetables that I avoid eye contact with when I’m walking down the produce line. Remember that scene from E.T., when his face shows up in the middle of all the stuffed animals? It’s like that. Eeeek.
What is kohlrabi, anyway? The name is a fun combination of German/Swiss words for cabbage and turnip, which is perfectly descriptive. It’s a knobby, imperfectly round, tennis ball-shaped vegetable with a spout of leaves, which makes it looks like a turnip from Jupiter.
Kohlrabi comes in green or purple, but the flesh is white either way. Its dense insides remind me of a broccoli stalk. It smells kind of radish and tastes ambiguously cruciferous.
I almost couldn’t find kohlrabi at the store, but I finally spied one sad, limp bunch and took it home with me. I used a vegetable peeler to peel off the rough brown spots and sliced it up, along with an apple. The crisp radish/sweet apple thing seemed a little odd at first, but soon I couldn’t resist snacking on it.
Then I added some fresh tarragon, which has the most wonderful lemon-licorice flavor to it, as well as toasted sunflower seeds, lemon and olive oil. It was good. Strangely good. Crisp, sweet, a little savory. I added some Gouda cheese on a whim, after the photo shoot, and that cheese took the salad into this-salad-is-not-safe-around-me territory. I’d recommend adding Gouda if you’re a cheese eater. This kohlrabi salad/slaw makes a great light side salad for warm fall days.
The recipe comes from a new book called Cooking with Seeds: 100 Delicious Recipes for the Foods You Love, Made with Nature’s Most Nutrient-Dense Ingredients by Charlyne Mattox. It’s filled with creative ways to add seeds to both familiar and more exotic recipes. I expected a seed-focused book to utilize more whole grains and a little less butter, but it’s probably more approachable as written. Check it out if you’d like to learn how to work more seeds into your diet!
- 2 small kohlrabi (about 1 pound, I used the green variety but purple would be prettier), cut into matchsticks about ¼" wide
- 1 large Honeycrisp apple (about ½ pound), cored and cut into matchsticks about ¼" wide
- ⅓ cup grated gouda cheese (optional, not shown)
- ¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves
- 3 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds*
- Lemon zest, to taste
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, to taste
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
- Flaky sea salt (like Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- In a large serving bowl, combine the kohlrabi and apple matchsticks. Add the cheese, if using, and the tarragon leaves and sunflower seeds. Shave lemon zest liberally over the bowl (I probably used about half of a small lemon's worth or more).
- Drizzle in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, then sprinkle lightly with salt and black pepper. Use your hands to gently toss the salad, then add another drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice if the salad seems dry. Finish with another light sprinkle of salt and pepper and serve immediately.
*How to toast your own sunflower seeds: If you only have raw, unsalted sunflower seeds at home (like me), toast them in a small skillet over medium heat with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until they're turning lightly golden on the edges, about 5 minutes.
Storage suggestions: This salad keeps well for a day or two, provided that you use enough lemon juice to prevent oxidation (I used closer to 2 tablespoons and day-old leftovers were still great).
Make it dairy free/vegan: Skip the optional cheese.