I love cooking with rare, unknown or curious edibles. I don't do it for the pure sake of novelty, although my cusiosity does drives me. If you cook enough, you nurture routines, lean on perfected recipes, start to pick favorites. I do. But I also love to turn it upside down. Throw in a wild card ingredient or technique and remember what it was like to cook for the first time. As it should be, the outcome is varied: Sometimes it falls flat, sometimes it's knockdown delicious. But more often than not, a wiser cook emerges.
Ironically, my most recent "rare" ingredient was as exotic as apple pie. It can grow just about anywhere and it does. It's the black sheep of the cabbage family. While American kids were nurturing a hatred for broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, the quiet kohlrabi all but sat out, saving its grace for the adoration of adults. Unfortunately, adults outside of Kashmir (where it's eaten nearly four times a week!) never took note. And so it goes, the most underutilized common vegetable.
My CSA bestowed me with a continual and plentiful supply of the strange looking orbs so I was determined to make good. The most common varieties, and the ones on my chopping block, were the Early White (green, really) and the Early Purple Viennas. If you're lucky, you might get your hands on the Superschmeltz variety; if for no other reason than to reply "superschmeltz" when asked what's for dinner.
So allow me to get down to it: I'm offering up a recipe for carrot & kohlrabi soup, hardly a fearless exploit. But, with much excitement, I will tell you what I learned. Once you peel off the fiborous skin of the vegetable, you're left with a creamy white ball of juicy, crispy flesh. it's a bit like a water chestnut in texture with a subtle cabbage taste, which makes it fantastic in raw salads. But once cooked down, it becomes soft and silky, not granular. It can be used in place of potato to thicken and bring body to soups. I've added a bit of Apple Cider Syrup to the mix as well, because I love the piquant flavor it adds to the naturally sweet soup. This recipe is simple and really nourishing. Not to mention easy.
Carrot & Kohlrabi Soup
Serves 2-4, depending on appetite
2 tablespoons Good Olive Oil
1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 small to medium kohlrabi, peeled and sliced
1 small bunch or three quite large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, warmed
1/2 teaspoon Apple Cider Syrup
Salt, to taste
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and sauté the onion until bronzed and caramelized. Add the kohlrabi and carrots, coriander, cardamom and a pinch of salt, allowing the vegetables to sweat, about 7 minutes.
Cover the vegetables with the warm stock and allow to simmer on medium-low heat until the vegetables are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
Pour the soup into the bowl of a blender, and whiz until a consistently creamy and velvety texture is achieved.
Pour your soup back into the original pot and bring back to a low simmer, adding the apple cider syrup and salting to taste.