A wise old Buddhist monk told me a few years ago when I was pondering some drastic possibilities for changes in my life that you can either live your whole life surrounded by people, places, things and experiences that are familiar to you, or you can embrace the unknown and grow from those experiences.
I try often to remember those words now that I’m in my 40’s, because I don’t want to get to the end of my life’s road and wonder what else I could have seen, done or experienced.
Since moving to Oregon, I’ve also tried to put this philosophy to practice in the kitchen. I figure, I never know how much time I’m going to spend here so I should experience as much as possible that’s unique to Oregon. This has led me to put some interesting meals on the table for Charles and my mother, including sautéed fiddlehead ferns, trout meunière made with trout that I caught myself in a pristine mountain lake, a cucumber and seaweed salad made from seaweed I gathered at the Oregon coast after a tidepool edibles class, going fishing in the ocean for coho salmon with Charles and one of my best friends, Anne Thompson, going crabbing at Nehalem Bay and returning home to make Dungeness crab cakes and Dungeness crab enchiladas, going to Tillamook Bay and gathering cockles and bringing them home to make deep-fried and steamed cockles.
I was thinking of these experiences today as I browsed the Saturday farmers market in Salem and came to a vendor from a family farm in Polk County. I was reaching for fresh cilantro, spring onions and Italian parsley when I spied a bin below the parsley that contained something completely foreign to me. It reminded me of an extra-terrestrial being with many appendages sticking out of its head. I asked the man behind the counter what it was and he answered, “Kohlrabi.” I had never noticed them before and was immediately curious. “What do they taste like?” He proceeded to take out a knife, chop off the bottom and top and peel it, revealing a round apple-like core, and he sliced a piece for me to taste. It reminded me of the texture of an apple, but firmer, with a taste reminiscent of gai lan (Chinese broccoli) or broccoli stems, sweet but less green and none of that sulfur aftertaste that you sometimes get with broccoli. I ended up buying 3 kohlrabi at 50 cents apiece and went on my merry way.
According to Wikipedia, the name of this vegetable comes from the German Kohl (cabbage) plus Rübe ~ Rabi (Swiss-German variant, meaning turnip), because the swollen stem resembles the latter. They’re supposed to be high in vitamin C.
On the way home my mind began to work on what to do with the Kohlrabi, and I stopped at Roth’s to get some oranges and spied some sunflower sprouts in the organic food section. I like sunflower seeds but had never had sunflower sprouts so I asked the produce person what they tasted like. He snipped a couple from the square container. They had a sweet and peppery burst of flavor when I chewed on them. Along with the navel oranges, I got a couple of containers of sunflower sprouts and I was on my way home, anxious to try two new things on my family: kohlrabi and sunflower sprouts!
Kohlrabi and Orange Salad
- ½ cup (120 ml.) sunflower sprouts, clipped from the growing medium and rinsed
- ¼ cup (60 ml.) dried cherries
- 2 cups (480 ml.) orange juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) mirin
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) olive oil
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) champagne vinegar
- 1 navel orange, peeled and skins removed from sections
- 3 kohlrabi
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) bonito (dried fish) and nori flakes (sold at Asian food stores combined in a single shaker)
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) thinly sliced red onion
- Place the dried cherries in a bowl and rehydrate them in 1 cup (240 ml.) of orange juice.
- Cut the tops and bottoms off the kohlrabi and peel off the fibrous skin Julienne the kohlrabi (cut into long thin strips).
- In a bowl, combine 1 cup (240 ml.) of orange juice, the mirin, champagne vinegar, olive oil, salt, and sesame oil and mix well. Add to the kohlrabi and sliced red onion and toss to coat, then refrigerate.
- When ready to serve, add the cherries along with any juice left in the cherry bowl, add the orange sections and gently mix. Then sprinkle sunflower sprouts on top and finish off by sprinkling bonito flakes and nori mixture and serve.