What To Do With Weird Farmers Market Vegetables

What To Do With Weird Farmers Market Vegetables

10:10am Jul 06, 2015
Kohlrabi, peeled and sliced, is refreshing, but lightly poached is good too, says chef April Bloomfield.
Kohlrabi, peeled and sliced, is refreshing, but lightly poached is good too, says chef April Bloomfield.
iStockphoto.com
  • Kohlrabi, peeled and sliced, is refreshing, but lightly poached is good too, says chef April Bloomfield.

    Kohlrabi, peeled and sliced, is refreshing, but lightly poached is good too, says chef April Bloomfield.

    iStockphoto.com

  • Sea urchin? Nope. Romanesco, a type of cauliflower.

    Sea urchin? Nope. Romanesco, a type of cauliflower.

    iStockphoto.com

Walking through the farmers market this time of year is a wondrous thing: juicy tomatoes, rows of jewel-toned eggplants, fragrant basil and sweet yellow corn. But then, you see bunches of greens that look like weeds, stuff with names like kohlrabi and purslane, and suddenly, you feel intimidated. Other people know what to do with these greens, why don't I?

Fear not. As Chef April Bloomfield explained to Weekend Edition's Lynn Neary, these more-unusual vegetables can be turned into a delicious dinner. Bloomfield runs two Michelin star restaurants, and her latest cookbook is called A Girl and Her Greens.

The first intimidating vegetable she addresses is kohlrabi. It's a pale green bulb that comes into season in October, with tough-looking leaves sprouting from the top. But its appearance is deceiving.

"Kohlrabi is very firm and very crisp," Bloomfield says. "And actually, doing nothing more than peeling it and thinly slicing it is ideal. I mean, it's so refreshing. But it's also good just slightly poached in a little bit of salt and some butter." She explains that after you get past the thick stalk and peel back the skin, poaching the flesh makes it extremely creamy.

One market mystery, solved. But what about the greens that are out there right now? In peak season they can make kale look boring.

Bloomfield says you can use them interchangeably or just mix them together. "I love nothing more than making a lovely salad of purslane," she says. If you have kale or watercress, mix it in, she suggests, along with anything else that's green. "Just kind of tossing those in a bowl with some salt, maybe some lemon and olive oil, or going a step further and getting some really delicious red wine and tossing that all together and shoving that in your mouth on a hot summer's day is perfect," she says.

One of the recipes in Bloomfield's new book features young peas, turned into a kind of pesto.

"When these peas first come in season, they're really tender and quite sweet," she says. The recipe is simple: just shell the peas and puree them with a little bit of Pecorino, a little bit of garlic, and some mint. "It really is just quite refreshing," Bloomfield says. "And it just kind of brings your soul and your palate alive after a long, hard winter. "

She suggests serving the pea mixture with heavily charred toast that's been rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with a little salt. "And just kind of slather the peas on there. There's something about the crunch of the toast and the delicious spicy olive oil that makes it very elegant and it cuts through that sweet pea that you've just pureed," Bloomfield says.

Sea urchin? Nope. Romanesco, a type of cauliflower.

Sea urchin? Nope. Romanesco, a type of cauliflower.

iStockphoto.com

Next up: Romanesco. It's a strange-looking, neon green fall vegetable, but don't let that fool you: It's actually a cauliflower.

There's a recipe in Bloomfield's book for Romanesco, as well. "I just basically pot roast it with anchovy and tomato and a little bit of rosemary," she says. "And the combination of the tomato, rosemary, and anchovy really makes it quite substantial. It's a very great dish just to have with a lovely, vibrant salad on the side."

So before you even get to the cooking stage, when you're still there in the market, if you're confronted with a big sea of green, and you cannot tell the difference between one and another, what's the best way to proceed?

"Just ask around," Bloomfield says. "It's always fun and it gets you connected. It makes you connected to the food and it gives you that extra story to tell at the dinner table."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

Walking through a farmers' market is a wondrous thing - juicy tomatoes, rows of jewel-toned eggplants, fragrant basil and sweet yellow corn. But then, you see bunches of greens that look like weeds with names like kohlrabi and purslane. And suddenly, you feel intimidated. Other people know what do to with these greens. Why don't I? Fear not. Our next guest says don't walk away. Chef April Bloomfield is with us to explain how to turn these more unusual vegetables into dinner no matter the season. April Bloomfield runs two Michelin star restaurants, and her latest cookbook is called "A Girl And Her Greens." Welcome to the program.

APRIL BLOOMFIELD: Hi. Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

NEARY: Let's start with a specific vegetable. Let's talk about kohlrabi. It's a pale green bulb and has some tough-looking leaves sprouting from the top. Where would you start with this?

BLOOMFIELD: Well, you know, kohlrabi is very firm and very crisp. And actually, doing nothing much than just peeling it and thinly slicing it is ideal. I mean, it's so refreshing, but it's also good just slightly poached in a little bit of salt and some butter, you know. You peel the kohlrabi. You kind of get past that kind of thick stalk, but then you, you know, you peel back the skin, and then when you poach it, it just becomes really creamy.

NEARY: What about so many of the greens that are out there right now? It's of a peak season for them, and they start to make kale look boring (laughter).

BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Right, right.

NEARY: Almost like iceberg lettuce.

BLOOMFIELD: Yeah.

NEARY: I mean, can you use them interchangeably?

BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. And you can just mix them all together. I love nothing more than making a lovely salad of purslane. And if there is some kale there, you know, kind of mix in that - with that in a bowl and just kind of adding some snap peas or anything else that's green. You know, watercress is in season right now at the markets and wild watercress. So just kind of tossing those in a bowl with some salt, you know, maybe some lemon and olive oil or kind of going a step further and getting some really delicious red wine and just kind of tossing that all together and just kind of shoving it in your mouth on a hot summer's day is perfect.

NEARY: I noticed a nice recipe you have for young peas. And you turned it into almost like a pesto kind of.

BLOOMFIELD: When these peas first come in season, they're really tender and quite sweet. And doing them very simply in this preparation just by picking them out of their pods, putting them in a pestle and mortar or Robot Coupe or a Cuisinart, as you guys call it, and just pureeing them with a little bit of pecorino, a little bit of garlic and some mint really is just quite refreshing. And it just kind of brings your soul and your palate alive after a long, hard winter.

NEARY: You're making it sound really delicious, I have to say. And you spread it on a piece of bread, like a piece of Italian bread or toast.

BLOOMFIELD: Yes. Yeah, and just kind of heavily charred, just lightly rub it with a little bit of garlic, some lovely, delicious spicy olive oil and a little bit of sea salt, and just kind of slather the peas on there, you know, the pureed peas. And there's something about the crunch of the toast and the delicious, spicy olive oil that makes it very elegant. And it kind of cuts through that kind of sweet pea that you've just pureed.

NEARY: So another vegetable I wanted to ask you about was romanesco, which is - it's kind of neon green. And it's actually a cauliflower, which I happen to like cauliflower a lot.

BLOOMFIELD: Yes. It is.

NEARY: So what could you make with romanesco?

BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, you can just kind of pop that in a pan. Actually, I have a recipe in my book, "A Girl And Her Greens," and I just basically pot roast it with anchovy and tomato and a little bit of rosemary. And those three combinations of the tomato, rosemary and anchovy really kind of makes it quite substantial and actually, it's a very great dish just to have with a lovely, vibrant salad on the side.

NEARY: So before you even get to the cooking stage, when you're still there in the market, if you're confronted with a big sea of green and you cannot tell the difference between one or another, what's the best way to proceed? Just ask the advice of the...

BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Just ask around, you know. It's always fun, and it gets you connected. It makes you connected to the food, and, you know, it just gives you that extra story to tell at the dinner table.

NEARY: Chef April Bloomfield. Her latest cookbook is "A Girl and Her Greens." Thanks for joining us.

BLOOMFIELD: Yes. It's a pleasure. Thanks for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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