Friday, June 21, 2013

When the Market Gives You Radishes and Kohlrabi

You know it's been a sluggish growing season when, at the farmers market two days before the summer solstice, you greet the appearance of kohlrabi with...excitement isn't the right word.  Joy is too strong.  Glee? Nah.  It's, you know, kohlrabi.  How about interest?  That'll do.  It's something different, at least, adding a mild variety to the growers' tables which, since late May, have held monotonous tableaux of rhubarb, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, and spring onions.  Oh, and radishes, absolute rock stars compared to the other blah offerings.

Now, I'm not actually knocking any of those lovely spring delicacies.  The first salad of real fresh lettuce after the long white winter is an absolute delight, something to be celebrated.  It's just that, you know, it's supposed to be summer now, it's the freakin' solstice, is it too much to ask for some peas, a strawberry, even new potatoes?  The market in Menomonie has been a pretty sleepy spot so far this year, I'm afraid.

But, you make the best of what you have, don't you, and with the proper attitude and some good supporting players, that can be damn good.  What I love about this salad is that the title, "Radish and Kohlrabi Salad with Yogurt Chive Dressing," contains the entire list of ingredients, other than salt and pepper (and after I made this I wished I'd omitted the pepper; I only mention it because you can see it in the picture, so you might wonder, Hey why didn't he mention the pepper? if I hadn't).

The chives are a bit droopy this morning after last night's pummeling rain.

Chives!  I love chives.  They are usually the first thing to appear in the garden in spring, and they are an absolutely reliable perennial.  To my utter astonishment, our garlic chives failed to make it through last winter.  Our sorrel also perished, equally astounding.  But the chives soldiered through, as did what must be the world's hardiest tarragon plant--the true fragrant French tarragon, transplanted last year from our former house in Saint Paul.  It was in a container on the deck, too, making its survival all the more remarkable.

Anyway:  chives.  I love the flavor of chives, I love the blue of chive flowers.  The chives are usually up with the ramps, and when the ramps are all done, the chives are still going strong.  Chives are excellent in a tart dairy dressing based on buttermilk or sour cream.  In this case I used some wonderful yogurt that Mary cultured using fresh whole milk from our friend Renee's farm.

The sweet kohlrabi goes well with the bitey radishes.  The dressing, simple as it is, is both mellow and perky, and, of course, wicked chivey.  This salad would go well on a picnic or barbecue buffet.  You don't want a lot of it, but it's a lovely accent dish.  We had it as part of a noshy dinner that included superb charcuterie from the Underground Butcher in Madison (they do mail order, too, and their stuff is great), Marieke gouda (one of those cheeses which, as many times as I've eaten it, blows me away every time I try it), a green salad with market lettuce (our will be ready in a few days), and some simply boiled new potatoes (from Madison, again; they had strawberries down there last week, too, so it's on the way).  And of course some of our homemade sourdough bread.

Looking over the table I was so impressed with how various and delicious our local foods are, even if the market isn't booming yet.  And I was reminded of how simple is the answer to the question of how to keep a local diet: Well, just buy local stuff, that's all, or grow/make your own.  And as summer progresses, it will become easier and easier.

Radish and Kohlrabi Salad with Yogurt Chive Dressing

Serves two

6 radishes
1/2 a small kohlrabi
A fistful of chives (or a few chives more, for Sergio Leone), chopped
About 3 tablespoons excellent yogurt
Chive flowers for garnish

Slice the radishes into coins, not too thin, maybe six coins per radish.  Quarter the half a kohlrabi and then cut the pieces crosswise into wedges--you want the kohlrabi pieces roughly the same size as the radishes.  Combine the veggies in a bowl and toss with a couple good pinches of salt.  Add the yogurt and mix.  Stir in the chives.  Put it in a pretty bowl (mine from Theresa of Utile Mud, who appears to have moved from the Twin Cities to Everett, WA, I didn't know that).  Garnish with chive flowers.  We're done.

Happy Solstice to all.

Text and photos copyright 2013 by Brett Laidlaw


Jennifer said...

How odd this winter was. Several of our most reliable perennials perished this winter, including our garlic chives, oregano, and three new thyme that I had just put in last spring.

I was also convinced that our parsley had died out, but it was just so late that it's only now just becoming visible more than 2 feet from groundlevel. Still too tiny for a parsley solstice salad though.

We're having a solstice party tonight that's going to involve roasting a chicken with some scape pesto--my scapes are ready! A neighbor also has strawberries, though mine aren't quite there yet.

Slowly... but surely... we're getting there! We just picked our first snow peas last night, with great rejoicing.

Susan Berkson said...

Yes. Was grateful for spring onions. Even reconsidered lowly rhubarb this year. Dug up burdock. Picked dandelion greens. Now that strawberries and sugar snap peas are here, will no doubt revert to my spoiled ways.

Jen said...

That looks delicious. I didn't even try kohlrabi until our first CSA box last year. Really enjoyed radishes and kohrabi. More so, in fact, than the corn and potatoes.

s said...

What a pretty salad! Its kind of fun the odd mix of in-season stuff you have in a weird year like this, it challenges you to be more creative.

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Jennifer: I always thought that after the nuclear apocalypse there'd be the cockroaches, and garlic chives. Amazed they didn't make it through the winter. We are now picking a few strawberries, which miraculously bounced back after the deer ate them right down to the ground this spring. An odd season and strange outcomes, indeed.

Susan, you little forager, you! Digging burdock root is pretty hardcore. Good for you.

Jen, I agree, it's good to be pushed outside your comfort zone, as you note, too, Sara. It's fun to come up with interesting preparations of vegetables that have kind of a stodgy reputation.

Happy summer, everybody~ Brett

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What a pretty salad! Its kind of fun the odd mix of in-season stuff you have in a weird year like this, it challenges you to be more creative.

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