Kohlrabi is one of those vegetables that for many years I really had no idea how to use. I knew I loved it in salads, or just thinly sliced with a little salt and lemon juice (ideal for a solo lunch or snack), but I could never find quite the right way to serve it for a crowd.
And then I started paying much closer attention to the salad selections on our last few trips to Israel, where kohlrabi is considered king vegetable and provides the secret bonus crunch to the raw medleys available at those to die for breakfast spreads. So on our return from the latest family trip, the experiments began.
There were many failures before success. Grating rendered mush, slicing in advance without lemon juice or dressing left dry yet soft mouthfuls, half moon slices were unwieldy among salad leaves, and then I finally reverted to a take on the classic chopped Israeli salad, and cubed them.
Thankfully this was the turning point and the salad started to come together nicely. With a little thinly sliced fennel (I use a mandolin), a few radishes for colour, some pea shoots and asparagus as a seasonal favourite, some treviso or endive (because I absolutely love both the bitter taste and colour) and a buttermilk herb dressing making this a killer summer salad. Delicious alongside the sweetness of tomatoes and bbq’d fish or on its own for lunch with a healthy slice of sourdough, this will feature regularly at our table this season.
Now that we have reveled in a weekend of sunshine, let the summer begin.
Kohlrabi, Fennel and Asparagus Salad
I like to let the kohlrabi, fennel and radish crisp up in a bowl of ice water for at least 15 minutes before draining and adding the rest of the ingredients and the dressing. It is not necessary, but it does retain the crunch. If you are making this in advance, you could leave the chopped and sliced vegetables in the ice water for an hour or so before draining well and assembling just before serving. Sliced radishes also work really well, and I replace them when asparagus is not in season.
If you are buttermilk averse andprefer a dairy free dressing option, olive oil and lemon juice with a good pinch of salt and pepper would also compliment the vegetable crunch. Just don’t leave out the sprinkling of sumac at the end for colour and authenticity.
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
1 bunch (approx 400g) of asparagus spears (optional when in season)
1 medium sized kohlrabi - make sure it is firm and has tight looking skin
1 large fennel bulb
1tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
good pinch of salt and pepper
1 tbsp dill, finely chopped
1 tsp chives finely chopped
1 tbsp mint, finely shredded
50g pea shoots (or you can use watercress or rocket)
2 treviso or red endive sliced lengthways to keep the shape of the leaves pinch of sumac
Prepare the asparagus by breaking off the ends at their natural break and steaming them until just cooked in a pan of boiling salted water. Drain and allow to cool.
If you are making this salad a little in advance, fill a large bowl with ice water. Peel the kohlrabi and cut into cubes the size of small dice. Put the dice in the bowl of ice water (if using), or into a large mixing bowl. Thinly slice the fennel and the radishes (I do this on a mandolin) and add to the kohlrabi (in the ice water or mixing bowl depending on what you are using). If the vegetables are soaking, leave them for anywhere between 15 minutes or an hour to crisp up.
In the meantime, make the dressing. In a small bowl mix together the buttermilk, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh herbs. I sometimes do this in a jam jar and just shake them together until they are fully mixed.
When you are ready to assemble the salad, drain the vegetables if they are soaking and lightly dry with a kitchen towel so that they are not holding any more water.
Cut the asparagus into bite size pieces - approximately 2cm lengths (I like to cut them on the diagonal)
In a large mixing bowl, combine the kohlrabi, fennel, radish, pea shoots (or other green leaves of choice), and the treviso or endive.
Pour over the dressing and mix with your hands until the leaves are fully coated with the dressing but be careful not to overdress. I like to transfer this to a large plate or platter to serve so make sure the dressing does not pool in the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle with sumac and serve.
This recipe first appeared in the Jewish Chronicle.
This salad also featured on the menu at our first Supper Club last month.