Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sweet Broccoli and Kohlrabi Salad



I've been so excited to get a bag of broccoli every week from the farm, because that means I can make one of my favorite dishes - sweet broccoli salad. The inspiration for this dish comes from a traditional Americana salad, traditionally made with broccoli, bacon, raisins, red onion, and a sweet dressing of apple cider vinegar, mayo, and sugar. We used to (ok, still do) eat a version called Joan's Broccoli Madness at Souplantation, or Sweet Tomatoes depending on your region, and it is so addictive. I was surprised to find how easy it was to make at home, and how well it adapts to the various contents of my CSA box.

Today I made a version with blanched broccoli, apricots, and sweet, tender kohlrabi, spring onions, and flavored with fresh basil and chives, along with some diced fresh hot peppers.



Have you ever cooked with kohlrabi? This funny looking plant belongs to the cabbage family and got its name from a German word meaning "cabbage-turnip". They look like a root vegetable, but they grow above ground in a bulb shape, usually purple or green. The purple ones are a bit sweeter. The peel can be a bit woody, so slice it off with a paring knife before using, especially in salads.



I've been happily using the young bulbs from the farm, steaming them and eating them with butter and salt. They are absolutely delicious, and taste like a sweet cauliflower or broccoli stem. It's hard to describe, but they are so good, you should definitely try them if you can find them. For this salad, I threw two bulbs in boiling water for two minutes, and sliced them into matchsticks. I added them to broccoli that I had blanched, diced some white spring onions, and added a diced pepper (you could use a jalepeƱo or a milder Anaheim pepper), chopped basil and chives, chopped walnuts, and chopped dried apricot.

The key to this salad is the super simple and adaptable dressing. The original (and simplest) version is below, but I've tried it a couple of ways and come up with a simple formula - 1 part creamy, 1 part vinegar, 1/2 part sweet. The creamy can be mayo, yogurt, sour cream, or whatever you've got. I like a combo of mayo and yogurt. The vinegar should be on the sweet side - I use apple cider vinegar, but I'm sure rice or red wine would be great. The sweet can be any kind of sugar, honey, agave, I've even tried maple syrup. I like to add a bit of pickle juice, and a pinch of salt. Trust me, it's hard to mess this up. I'd recommend starting with the original recipe and adjust it to your tastes.

This is one dish that just gets better with time - the broccoli absorbs the sweet dressing, and the kohlrabi stays crisp and interesting. I've talked to a lot of people about this dish, and have gotten so many different stories and recipes in response. Some people add cheddar cheese, some people caramelize the onions, or use toasted hazelnuts and cherries. Fool around with what you've got in your fridge and cupboards. You won't be disappointed.



Eat well!

The original Souplantation recipe:
Souplantation's Joan's Broccoli Madness Salad
6 to 8 servings
1 bunch uncooked broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1/2 cup cashews
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped red onion

DRESSING
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Mix the broccoli, bacon, cashews, raisins and onions in a large bowl. In a second bowl, beat dressing ingredients together gently until smooth. About 10 minutes before serving, toss the salad with the dressing to allow flavors to meld.
(From Souplantation.)

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