Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kohlrabi Poriyal

Kohlrabi are not a common sighting at our markers or dinner tables, especially ones with full leafy plumage like these fine specimens from Sweet Water Farm, available for a couple of weeks through Eugene Local Foods. However, during childhood visits to my grandmother's home in Germany as a child, we often ate tender cubes of a root vegetable in cream sauce, a dish simply called "gemüse" (vegetable), that only years later I realized was kohlrabi. Today its distinctive taste still has a Proustian effect on me. 

Recently, a friend shared his favorite childhood recipe for kohlrabi, prepared in the style of a South Indian dry curry, or poriyal. Recreating it required a trip to Vishnu Indian Imports for urad dal (small lentils that are fried in hot oil with mustard seeds at the beginning) and vangibath powder (a spice mix with ground lentils and chilies that coats the cubed vegetables at the end). The final dish was delicious. And for a nose to tail approach to these unshorn kohlrabi, I cooked the leaves like cabbage in this Madhur Jaffrey recipe with fennel seeds, along with masooar dal and kale with paneer. Even in its South Indian guise, the kohlrabi tasted a little bit like childhood summers. 

Kohlrabi Poriyal

3-4 smallish kohlrabi (or use turnips, parsnips, potatoes or other hard vegetables)
2 Tbsp neutral oil (such as canola)
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp black mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida (optional)
1 1/2 tsp vangibath (vangi bhath) powder, MTR brand recommended 
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt to taste

1. Peel the kohlrabi generously with a paring knife to remove any woody bits, leaving just the smooth white interior. Cut into 3/8 inch cubes.

2. Heat a large, shallow frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and when it is hot, add the urad dal. Cook the dal, stirring, until it is a toasted brown. Add the black mustard seeds and a pinch of asafoetida, if using, and cook for a few seconds until the seeds start to pop. Add the kohlrabi pieces and season with salt.

3. Saute the kohlrabi, stirring occasionally, until it is almost tender. When the kohlrabi is close to done, stir in the vangibath powder and turmeric. Cook for a couple more minutes until the kohlrabi is tender. Enjoy. 

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