Tangy Apple, Kohlrabi and Hearts of Palm Salad
Have you ever been waiting in line at the grocery store when the back of your neck starts to prickle and you can feel a faint thrum behind you? You turn around, grudgingly, and there you see a bright eyed face that’s just ready to *make friends*. But you don’t WANT to make friends, you just want to buy your g.d. groceries and get the heck out of there, right? I hear you. Except….well, except that the bright eyed friend making face is me. Embarrassing, yes, but I am That Person.
Tina: “Three bags of tortilla chips and a metric ton of salsa! Looks like we’re having a PAR-TAY tonight! Let me know what time and I’ll be there!”
Stranger 1: “Uh…….”
Tina: “Mmm…ribs. I love ribs. How do you cook YOUR ribs? Do you braise them first? Or are they smoked? Man, ribs are delicious, aren’t they? So what–”
Stranger 2, turning to cashier: “I’ll pay cash. It’s faster that way.”
But sometimes, not very often, the suspicious stranger puts up with me just long enough to answer my never ending questions and teach me something new.
Tina: “Hey, what’s that? It’s kohlrabi, right? I always wanted to buy kohlrabi but I never knew what to do with it! What do YOU do with kohlrabi? What does it taste like? Is it watery or firm? It looks like chayote, but does it taste like chayote because I bet it’s not ACTUALLY very chayote like at all…..”
Stranger 3: “Yes it is kohlrabi! I utterly ADORE kohlrabi! I buy it all the time because it’s amazing in stir-fry, roasted, raw in salad, just about any way at all. The taste is a bit like a cross between cabbage and broccoli, but more like the tender stems of broccoli than the actual –”
Cashier: “That’s $52.46….”
Stranger 3: “Great, thanks! So you can BRAISE it too, or it’s really good in cheese sauce and if you thinly slice it –”
Cashier: “THAT’S FIFTY TWO FORTY SIX.”
Stranger 3: “Oh yes, thank you. You should definitely buy some kohlrabi – no thanks, I brought my own bags – because it’s totally my favorite vegetable and –”
Cashier, through gritted teeth: “And $7.54 is your change. Thank you….for……your business….”
The next day, obviously, I went back and bought some kohlrabi for the very first time.
Kohlrabi, also known as “German turnip”, is a funny looking little guy. Despite being a member of the cabbage family, it presents an awful lot like a root vegetable with leafy tops that have a peppery flavor like radish greens. Don’t throw out the tops because they’re quite delicious cooked in the same way as collard or mustard greens. As for the bulb, much like cabbage you can either find it in a pale apple green or a rich purple-red, but both taste the same and are equally delicious.
In the far east, kohlrabi is often steamed, pickled or curried (and indeed I used the rest of the bunch to make a coconut curried kohlrabi and tofu stew the next day) but to show it off to it’s best advantage I think it should be eaten raw. The gently sweet, slightly peppery and unmistakably cabbage tasting flesh is crisp and crunchy, holding up well in a salad or slaw when you cut it into matchsticks, ribbons, or a shred.
If you have never tried kohlrabi before, a bright and acidic salad is a great first foray into joys of this vegetable. Better yet, with nothing but faith and a mandolin on your side this salad still comes together in a healthy heart beat. If dangerously sharp Japanese manual slicers aren’t your thing, however, you’ll just have to rely on those fabulous knife skills of yours….but keep the band-aids handy anyway, just in case.
Tangy Apple, Kohlrabi and Hearts of Palm Salad
Serves 6 as a side salad
- 2 granny smith apples
- 1 medium kohlrabi, about the size of a softball
- 1/2 bulb radicchio
- 4 celery ribs
- 1/2 red onion
- 1/2 lb hearts of palm (or 19 oz can) *
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 large lime (incl. 1/2 tsp lime zest)
- 1/2 navel orange
- 1.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 4 tbsp grapeseed oil **
- small handful fresh cilantro (1/3 cup finely chopped)
- salt and pepper to taste
*I dream of one day being able to buy fresh hearts of palm, but like so many other glorious fresh food items they just aren’t sold around here. Obviously fresh is superior to canned, but if need be (as is the case for us) a good quality tinned HoP will suffice. Do check the ingredients though, because if the second ingredient is salt you might want to rethink things.
** Any light and mild oil will do, so if you don’t have grapeseed oil you can substitute with sunflower or whatever is in the cupboard and has not gone ranky from neglect. Avoid olive oil because the rich flavor would overwhelm the dressing.
Grate or press the garlic into a fairly large mixing bowl and add half a teaspoon of lime zest. Squeeze in the juice of one large lime (or 1.5 smaller ones) along with the juice of half an orange. There should be about 1/3 cup in total. Pour in the rice wine vinegar and give it a good whisk. Slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil, whisking constantly as you do so, until the dressing is relatively homogeneous.
Peel the tough and dry outer layer(s) from your red onion and use a mandolin to slice it as thinly as possible. Toss the onions in the dressing and let them sit for at least 10 minutes while you ready the other ingredients. This will allow the flavor to soften and mellow, reducing some of the pungent onion flavor.
Alright, I thought that I could get through that paragraph without a safety note on mandolins, but I started to think about the dangers of a kitchen guillotine and I just couldn’t keep it in. I’m sorry guys, I tried, but my inner OSHA rep started to seizure a little bit. Look, you know the drill when it comes to mandolins, but here we go again;
There. That feels better.
Chop the celery into fairly thin half moons, each slice about 1/8″ thick. Cut the hearts of palm vertically in half and then chop into thicker slices, each about 1/3″. Hearts of palm have a mild, and buttery flavor along with a tender texture, so you want them to be significantly more robust than the other ingredients.
Lay your half head of radicchio down flat and remove the tough heart from the bottom. Slice thinly across into ribbons that are no more than 1/4″ thick.
Back to the mandolin! Cut your apples into quarters and use a small sharp paring knife (or melon baller) to scoop out the pits and seeds. Cut the stem end from the kohlrabi and pare away any tough leafy fingers or darker green bits that might be attached. Quarter the kohlrabi. Run the apples and kohlrabi chunks across the mandolin into slices that are delicate but not paper thin (about 1/16″ or 1.5 mm thick). You should be able to see through the pieces when you hold them up to the light, but they should not be so thin that they’re flimsy and prone to tearing.
Finally, wash the cilantro (dirty little bugger that it always seems to be) and pat it dry before giving it a nice, fine chop. There should be a scant third of a loosely packed cup in total.
Add all of the ingredients to the onions and dressing in the bowl and toss them to combine. Make sure that you really dig right down to make sure that the acidic vinaigrette has a chance to coat all of the other ingredients rather than just languishing at the bottom of the bowl.
Season the salad with salt and pepper to taste.
This salad is best served immediately, but it can stay for a few hours in the fridge if you’re not pressed for time. Try to eat it on the same day, however, because if it sits overnight the red onions and jewel toned radicchio will leech their color onto that snowy white apple flesh, and the salad will start to get watery and a bit limp by the next day.
This gently sweet but brightly acidic salad is a great stand in on your BBQ buffet table instead of a traditional tangy slaw. I find it particularly refreshing to cut through and cleanse your palate after a big plate of sticky ribs or smoky brisket, but it also proved to be a formidable opponent alongside a hearty vegetarian entree like black bean burgers.
Think of your old fashioned cabbage coleslaw with that sugary vinaigrette, and make a mental pact to give it a rest, even just for a little while, and try something new. Something with apples and kohlrabi. Something that may cause you to lose half a digit of your index finger on a mandolin, but hey – we like to live on the salad eating edge.