Kohlrabi used to kind of be my thing. I loved picking it up at the grocery store when I was able to find it, because inevitably, someone would come up to me and say, “Now, what do you do with that?” or, “What does that taste like?” And I would say, “Boil it, roast it, mash it, anything!” or, “Sort of like a cross between a potato and a turnip!” Many a random grocery store conversation would start this way.
Do you think it’s strange that I regularly have conversations about produce with random strangers at the grocery store? If you do, then I humbly suggest that you’re shopping at the wrong grocery stores. I love grocery stores with big produce sections that specialize in all different kinds of ethnic cuisines. (Not to be confused with grocery stores that sell 8 different kinds of organic apples. In those types of stores, most people have their noses buried in a blackberry and rush to cut in front of you in line.) I’m talking the kind of place where you find the lemon grass next to the okra next to the tomatillos next to 10 different sizes and shapes of peppers. If you’re not sure how to find such a place, locate a grandma on the street (preferably speaking Spanish, Polish, etc., but even a thick accent will do), and follow her until she makes her way to buy her groceries. The grannies will always lead you to the right place.
This sounds silly, but I’m being serious. When we first moved to the burbs, I mourned a bit for my favorite grocery store close to our old place and it took me a while to figure out where to shop here. I knew I had hit the motherload when I walked in and it looked like bingo night at the church.
So where was I?
Oh. Kohlrabi. These types of stores will always have it, although it is almost always green, not a beautiful purple like the one I had to make this pie. But in the past few years, I’ve been seeing it at farmer’s markets, too. And I’ve actually found many recipes online for this strange-looking vegetable. Perhaps kohlrabi is no longer in the sole domain of German grandmothers. My own grandma always boiled them, mashed them, and stirred them into a cream sauce. Or boiled them, then doused them in melted butter. They’re delicious this way, but not super versatile. So I love finding different recipes that put a new spin on one of my old favorites. And I also love that this pie utilizes the leaves, as well, something that never occurred to me.
This dinner-pie is simple in its flavors and ingredients, which really lets the sweet, tender kohlrabi shine. Dill is the perfect herb to season kohlrabi, so much so that I’m angry with myself that I hadn’t thought of it before. I admit that the whole phyllo dough step takes this one out of the usual realm of everyday suppers, but in the end, it only added less than 5 minutes of fiddling around, and the light, flaky, papery crunch on top of the pie was just so perfect that I’d have a hard time making it sans phyllo next time (even though the original recipe suggests that would be just fine). I would, however, probably only crinkle a few sheets of phyllo on top, instead of trying to encase the entire pie. The dough on the bottom kind of melted into nothingness on me anyway, so next time I’d save myself the trouble- it’s all about the crackly top anyway, baby. But you can be the judge of that.
I really do love that kohlrabi is getting to be so popular. Even though it makes me sad to think that I’ll have one less reason to chat up my fellow shoppers, it’s worth it if we can all get in on the kohlrabi love. And luckily I have an even better conversation starter these days in the form of a precocious, flirtatious toddler. Kohlrabi in every shopping cart!
Kohlrabi Pie with Dill and Feta
from the NY Times
2 pounds kohlrabi, with greens if possible
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 large eggs, beaten
5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
12 sheets phyllo dough (1/2 pound)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted (optional)
If the kohlrabi still has greens attached, stem and wash the greens, then chop them coarsely. Peel the kohlrabi, making sure to remove the fibrous layer right under the skin, and grate using a food processor fitted with the grater attachment, or simply use a box grater.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it is tender, about 5 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt, stir together, and stir in the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and stir in the kohlrabi. Add another tablespoon of olive oil if necessary. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is very tender and beginning to color, about 10 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid in the pan from the kohlrabi, turn up the heat and cook, stirring, until it boils off. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the kohlrabi greens, dill and parsley, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 10-inch tart pan or cake pan with olive oil. (I used a springform pan with a removable bottom and it worked perfectly for this.) Beat the eggs in a large bowl, and beat in the crumbled feta. Stir in the kohlrabi mixture and combine well.
Line the pan with a few pieces of phyllo, brushing each piece with olive oil, and turning the dish after each addition so that the edges of the phyllo drape evenly over the pan. Fill with the kohlrabi mixture. Fold the draped edges in over the filling, then layer the remaining 5 pieces on top, crumpling them up a bit. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Bake the pie for 50 minutes , until the crust is crisp and golden brown. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.