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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi:

About:

Kohlrabi, also known as German turnip or turnip cabbage, is an annual vegetable and a low stout cultivar of cabbage.  The name "kohlrabi" come from the German for cabbage turnip.  Its origin in nature is the same as that of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts.  Kohlrabi may be eaten raw or cooked.  Of kohlrabi's two varieties the purple globe is sweeter and tastier than the apple green one.  Both varieties have a pale green , almost ivory, colored flesh inside.  Kohlrabi's flavor is mild and delicately sweet.  Its texture is crisp and moist.  


History:

Kohlrabi originated in northwest Europe, probably in Germany.  Charlemagne, who was emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 A.D. ordered kohlrabi to be grown in lands under his reign.   Kohlrabi was in common use throughout Italy, France, and Germany from Charlemagne's time to the present.  Kohlrabi has been growing in the U.S. since 1806.

Uses:

Kohlrabi is most commonly cooked and added to soups or other recipes.  Kohlrabi root is frequently used raw in salads or slaws.    It has a texture similar to that of broccoli stem but with a flavor that is sweeter.  Kohlrabi leaves are edible and can be used interchangeably with collards and kale.  When using kohlrabi, remove the stems by pulling or cutting them off the globe.  Stems and leaves can be chopped and added in a tossed salad.  If the kohlrabi globe is small, there is no need to peel it, just remove the tough base end.  The larger globes should be peeled and the tough woody base removed before slicing or dicing.  Besides using raw kohlrabi can be cut into bite-sized pieces and steamed for 5-7 minutes, barbecued by slicing or chopping and being tossed with olive oil and salt and wrapped in tin foil and grilled for 10-12 minutes, and stir fried by dicing or chopping into bite-sized pieces and stir frying for 5-7 minutes in olive oil with garlic and salt.

My Story:

Actually, kohlrabi is not very popular in the U.S.  In the supermarket we carried it just to have variety more than because it sold.   One of the signs of fresh kohlrabi is greens that are deep green with no yellowing or wilting.  Well, the greens would not last very long on display.  We would soak them in cold water to keep them hydrated, but even then the yellowing would take over in short order.  We would then cut the leaves and stems off and put the globes in a tray and mark it at a reduced price.  Even then it was a hard sell.  I don't think we even made much money on kohlrabi.

Nutrition:

In a half cup of raw sliced kohlrabi you will find:
  • low in calories (19 calories)
  • high in dietary fiber (2.5 grams)
  • high in potassium (245 grams)
  • vitamin A (25 I.U.)
  • vitamin C (43.4 mg)
  •  folic acid (11.3 mcg)
  • calcium (16.8 mg)

Season:

Although kohlrabi is available all year, the crop peaks in June and July.  Good supplies are available from August through October.

Selecting and Storing:

Select small kohlrabi that is smooth and unblemished and  no larger than 2 1/2 inches in diameter with the greens still attached.  The greens should be deep green all over with no yellowing.   When you get the kohlrabi home,  remove the stems and leaves and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a day or two.  Refrigerate the globes in a separate bag for up to a week.

So......... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.



Kohlrabi Fritters:

1 globe kohlrabi
1 egg
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
oil or butter for frying

Remove any stems or leaves from kohlrabi globe.  Use a vegetable peeler to peel the globe unless it is rather small.  Slice off the woody base. 
Shred the kohlrabi into a bowl.  Add the salt, pepper, egg, and bread crumbs.  Mix well.  Heat oil or butter in a skillet and drop a small mound of the mixture into the oil.  Flatten the mound with the back of a spatula.  Turn after a few minutes.  Fry until both sides are crispy.  Serve and enjoy

                                      
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Green Squash aka Zucchini

Green Squash, aka Zucchini:


About:

Zucchini, also know as simply "green squash", is a summer squash.  While we treat it as a vegetable, zucchini is actually the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.    Zucchini are dark to light green in color and can grow from the size of a finger to two feet long.   Most of the commercially grown zucchini is from four to eight inches long and two to three inches in width.


History:  

Many explorers who came to the Americas brought back what they considered strange foods.   The zucchini was one such food and it eventually found its way to Italy, where the zucchini we know today was developed.   In fact the word zucchini is the plural of the Italian word "zucchino" meaning "a small squash"

My Story:. 

My maternal grandmother, Grandma Pallini, used to make "cocozelle", another word for zucchini, by cooking it in tomato sauce flavored with onion and garlic.  I just recently found out that zucchini  cooked in tomato sauce with onion and garlic is an Egyptian dish.   Go figure!

Selecting and Storing: 

Zucchini are available in your local grocery store all year long.  Select the smaller ones which tend to be younger and more tender.  Look for skins free from blemishes with a bright color.  Zucchini should be stored in the refrigerator no longer than three days.

Nutrients: 

When preparing zucchini the skin is left on.  That's where all the nutrients are.  Just make sure you wash it well.  Zucchini has 95% water content so is very low in calories.  It also has useful amounts of folate, potassium, vitamin A ,vitamin C,  and manganese.


Health Benefits:

As an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of vitamin C, summer squash provides a great combination of conventional antioxidant nutrients.  B-complex vitamins found in valuable amounts in summer squash are related to healthy blood sugar regulation.  The presence of omega-3 fats in the seeds of summer squash and the presence of anti-inflammaatory carotenoids help provide protection against unwanted inflammation.  The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients in summer squash is a logical nutrient combination for providing anti-cancer benefits. 

Uses:

Zucchini can be eaten raw, sliced or shredded in a cold salad as well as lightly cooked in hot salads.  More often it is served cooked.  It can be steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, roasted, or incorporated in  other recipes such as souffles.  It can also be baked into bread.

Zucchini's mild suttle flavor matches well with:

          basil                                                olive oil                                       garlic
          bread crumbs                                   onion                                          lemon
          butter                                              oregano                                      marjoram
          cayene                                            parsley                                      mushrooms
          cheese                                            pesto                                         tarragon
          cilantro                                            pine nuts                                    thyme
          cream                                             rosemary                                    tomatoes
          dill                                                  sage                                          vinegar
          eggplant                                          salmon                                      walnuts
   
So, go ahead.  Get creative!

Eat up!   Enjoy!   I'll show you how. 

Simple but good:

Zucchini Spaghetti with Peas, Pesto and Ricotta

1 medium zucchini, washed 
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons basil pesto
1 tablespoon ricotta cheese
1 handfull of fresh or frozen peas
Salt and pepper
Lemon zest and Parmesan cheese to finish

Take a box grater and place it on its side with the largest grating holes facing up.  Cut the ends off the zucchini and grate it long ways to produce ribbons. 


Heat a skillet with the olive oil and gently fry the zucchini with the garlic until slightly tender.   Stir in the peas, pesto, and ricotta.  Stir until coated.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a plate and garnish with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese. 

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard:

About:

Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris) is a leafy green vegetable often used in Mediterranean cooking.  Swiss chard is much more popular in Europe than the U.S.   It is grown in every European country as well as parts of Asia, Africa, and South America, and to a lesser extent in North America.  In some cultivars the leaf stalks are large and often prepared separately from the leaf blade.  The shiny, ribbed leaves can be green or reddish in color, the leaf stalks  vary in color usually white, yellow or red.   Swiss chard is in the same family as beets and spinach.  It has been bred to have highly nutritious leaves and is considered one of the most healthful vegetables available.  

Common Names:

  • Swiss chard
  • silverbeet
  • perpetual spinach
  • spinach beet
  • crab beet 
  • bright lights
  • seakale beet
  • mangold

History:

Swiss chard is not native to Switzerland.  The first varieties of chard have been traced back to Sicily.   The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about chard in the 4th century B.C.  Both the Greeks and later the Romans prized chard for its medicinal properties. 


My Story:

Swiss chard was not something we had very often growing up.  It was something you might get occasionally at Grandma's.  Of course I had heard of it and so I knew the name.  It was not until I was at the supermarket that I dealt more with Swiss chard.  It was mainly trying to keep it fresh looking by trimming a slice off the stalks and soaking the bunch in cold water to rehydrate and freshen it.  In honesty it was not a very good seller but something we kept for the sake of variety.

Uses:

Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads.  Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sauteed; their bitterness fades with cooking leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of spinach.   Along with kale, mustard greens, and collard greens  Swiss chard is one of several leafy green vegetables referred to as "greens". 

Nutrition:

Swiss chard is high in vitamins A, K, and C.  It is rich in minerals including calcium and magnesium, dietary fiber, and protein.  

Health Benefits:

Many studies have shown that Swiss chard has unique benefits for blood sugar regulation.  Swiss chard offers an outstanding variety of conventional antioxidants.  Equally outstanding are chard's phytonutritional antioxidants which also act as anti-inflammatory agents.   With a very good supply of calcium and an excellent supply of magnesium and vitamin K chard provides excellent bone support. 

Season:

Swiss chard is available from April to December.    The peak season is June through August.


Selecting and Storing:

Choose chard that is held in a refrigerated display with leaves that are vivid green and do not show any signs of yellowing or browning.   Leaves should not be wilted or have tiny holes.  The stalks should look crisp and be unblemished.  
Don not wash Swiss chard before storing as water encourages spoilage.  Place chard in a plastic storage bag and wrap the bag tightly around the chard, squeezing out as much air as possible.  Place in the refrigerator where it will keep fresh up to 5 days.  

So........ Eat up!   Enjoy!   I'll show you how........................


Simple but Good:

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Onions 
2 large bunches of Swiss chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced 
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
salt and pepper

Cut stems and center ribs from chard leaves discarding any tough portions.  Cut stems and ribs crosswise into 2 pieces.  Stack chard leaves and roll up lengthwise.  Cut cylinders crosswise make 1 inch wide strips.  Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot until foam subsides, then cook onion and garlic with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper covered stirring occasionally until onion begins to soften (about 8 minutes).  Add chard stems and ribs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Cook covered until stems are just tender (about 10 minutes).  Add chard leaves in batches stirring until wilted before adding next batch and cook covered stirring occasionally until tender(4 to 6 minutes). Transfer with a slotted spoon to serving dish. 
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