Strange Vegetables: Kohlrabi, Fennel and Pattypan Squash
Look for these oddball characters in our farmers markets this winter. They may look weird, but they’re also weirdly delicious.
Each part of this frilly bagpipe plays a different tune.
The fat bulb at the bottom adds crunchy, mild licorice notes used raw in salads or cooked as cutlets; the stalks contribute bravura to broth and make a cozy bed for roasting fish; and the chopped fronds sing as anise-flavored grace notes to a soup or salad.
A member of the celery family, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) makes good music together with many cuisines, including Indian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, where its seeds, leaves and bulb are key components. ¶
Fennel is a harmonious accompaniment to seafood, especially soups and stews, like cioppino.
Look for firm bulbs with no brown spots. Cut off the unwieldy stalks and wrap and store separately. ¶ Peel off stringy fibers from the bulb, then cut into the bulb into wedges or slices to sauté, braise or roast. ¶ Toss thin slices in a salad to add crunch and flavor.
Is this an alien spacecraft (or perhaps an alien) or an octopus?
This pale green globe looks like a root, but it actually grows just above ground.
Also known as German turnip or cabbage turnip, kohlrabi – like cabbage, cauliflower and kale – comes from a common parent, wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea).
Crunchy and delicate in flavor, kohlrabi tastes like a mild turnip or a broccoli stem, perfect for crudités or added to a salad. Choose young, smaller kohlrabi to avoid woodiness or toughness. ¶
To use, pull off the stems (also chop them into a salad), slice off the base and peel (unless you have a very young and tender kohlrabi), then slice, dice or julienne. If there are greens attached, chop them and add to a salad. ¶
To cook: Steam in lightly salted water; stir-fry in olive oil with garlic and other vegetables; or toss in flour and fry in olive oil, then sprinkle with chili powder or smoked paprika and salt.
Resembling a colorful sunburst or a flying saucer, pattypan squash is just a summer squash in a whimsical shape.
Like zucchini or yellow squash, pattypan squash – Curcubita pepo – don’t need to be peeled. ¶
Slice them vertically and sauté in olive oil with garlic until tender, then toss with fresh basil, Parmesan cheese as a side dish or a pasta sauce. ¶ Cut off the tops, scoop out the seeds, and stuff with sautéed vegetables and fresh herbs, then sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake until cooked through.¶
Cut thick horizontal slices, season with salt and pepper, dredge in flour and fry in vegetable oil. Top with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, basil and chopped fresh tomatoes.