Kohlrabi!

For some reason, my kids find the name “kohlrabi” hysterically funny – they even invented a creature called the kohlrabi monster that lived in our basement and attacked little children who went down there alone, particularly those children that didn’t eat their vegetables. (Now that the basement is finished, he rarely makes an appearance, though.)

Kohlrabi comes from the brassica family, which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collards, and is the swollen stem of the plant. As you might expect, it has a slightly cabbage-y taste, but in its younger forms it is mild and sweet. It can be slice thinly and eaten raw, but I prefer it cooked. It makes a great substitute for broccoli stems  – try it in Broccoli Stem Stirfry and Stirfried Pork with Bamboo Shoots & Broccoli Stems.

Better yet, kohlrabi makes a great substitute for water chestnuts – an ingredient that I often omit from my recipes because I prefer not to buy ingredients that are processed and/or imported from too far away. Try adding some finely diced raw kohlrabi to the filling for Pork & Cabbage Dumplings – it will remain slightly crunchy when the dumplings are cooked.

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Broccoli Stem Stirfry

If you tend to have leftover broccoli stems, don’t toss them! We tend to use the crowns down to the main stem for a green vegetable with western meals, but that leaves us with quite a lot of long stems. These can be cut into “matchsticks” and stirfried into a delicious vegetable (or meat) dish.

ingredients:

  • 3-4 broccoli stems
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • salt, to taste

method:

  1. Peel the broccoli stems and  cut into 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″ matchsticks.
  2. Cut the bell pepper into 1/4″ dice.
  3. Heat the wok over medium-high heat, then add the oil just until it shimmers.
  4. Add the garlic and explode just until fragrant.
  5. Add the broccoli and red pepper and stirfry just until crisp-tender, approximately 2-3 m.
  6. Season to taste, then serve.

variation:

  • If you want to use some meat in this dish, a bit of diced bacon or ham cut into strips makes a nice addition. If you use bacon, you should cook the bacon first, then remove it to drain some of the fat. You can either use the bacon fat to stirfry the vegetables or dump it out and use oil. If you use ham, add it at the very end of the cooking process, just to heat it through. In either case, you’ll need to use less salt.

Stirfried Pork with Bamboo Shoots & Broccoli Stems

I generally try to buy local, fresh ingredients, but once in a while we will buy something more exotic, such as bamboo shoots. If you live near an Asian market, look for the vacuum-sealed packages – the bamboo won’t carry the taste of the can with it. If you want to stick with local ingredients, omit the bamboo and double the amount of broccoli stems – this is a great recipe for using up those tasty leftovers from dishes that just require the florets. Looking for something vegetarian or vegan? Substitute pressed or baked tofu for the pork. Want a quick veggie stirfy – omit the port entirely.

ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb pork – look for less lean chops, preferably from pastured pigs – cut into 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″ shreds
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 T fresh ginger root, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 oz cooked bamboo shoot, cut into matchsticks approximately 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″
  • 4 oz broccoli stems, peeled and cut into matchsticks approximately 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″
  • salt, to taste

marinade:

method:

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, add the pork shreds and combine thoroughly, allowing to rest 15-30 m. Drain off excess marinade.
  2. Heat the wok over medium high heat, then add 1 T oil, heating just until it shimmers.
  3. Explode the ginger and garlic just until fragrant, then add the pork shreds and stirfry quickly just until no longer pink. Remove to a plate.
  4. Add the other 1 T oil, heating just until it shimmers, then stirfry the bamboo shoots and broccoli stem pieces just until crisp-tender.
  5. Add the pork back to the wok, stirfry quickly to combine.
  6. Season to taste, and serve.

Stirfried Broccoli with Crab

We were lucky enough to be given the gift of some delicious crab legs – thanks, Oran! – something we rarely buy but greatly enjoy. I often hesitate to buy crab for reasons of sustainability, but if you visit Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch, you will find that there are some good alternatives.

Because we started with uncooked legs, I give instructions for cooking them, but you can start with any cooked crab meat – better if it’s leg or lump, not all stringy, though.

ingredients:

  • 1 lb king crab legs
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small florets, stems reserved for another dish
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt, to taste (you may not need any)

method:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch and shock the broccoli just until crisp tender, gently squeezing out any excess moisture.
  2. Rinse the crab well, then steam for 15 m. Crack open the shells and remove the meat, cutting it into 2″ segments.
  3. Heat a wok over medium high heat, then add the oil, just until it shimmers.
  4. Explode the garlic just until fragrant, then add the broccoli and crabmeat, stirfrying until heated through.
  5. Season to taste (the crab may be salty enough that you don’t need to add any salt), and serve.

do ahead:

The crab and broccoli can both be prepared up to a day ahead of time, making this a super-quick stirfry to serve company – keep refrigerated until about an hour before you are ready to stirfry.

Oyster Sauce Beef with Broccoli

We’ve been enjoying the grassfed beef from Natural Local Food Express, particularly the flank steaks, which at approximately 1.5 lbs are plenty for 2 meals when used in a stirfry. If you can’t find flank steak or it’s too pricy, you can use another fairly large-grained cut of beef – because you cut it across the grain, the result will be very tender. I prefer to use the vegetarian version of “oyster sauce,” which is made from mushrooms.

ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb flank steak
  • 3 T oil
  • 3 slices fresh ginger root
  • 2 ea scallions, roll-cut into 1.5″ sections
  • 1 recipe stirfried broccoli, to be stirfried just before stifrying the meat

marinade:

sauce:

  • 1 tsp tapioca flour or cornstarch
  • 2 T water, stock or broth
  • 2 T oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar, brown or raw cane is best

method:

  1. Mix together the marinade ingredients and set aside.
  2. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  3. Rinse and pat the steak dry, then slice into 1/8″ thick slices, approximately 1-1.5″ long.
  4. Mix the marinade into the meat and set aside for 30 m at room temperature or up to 60 m in the refrigerator, then drain off any juices if any have collected.
  5. Stirfry the broccoli and spread on a serving plate.
  6. Mix 1 T of oil into the meat.
  7. Heat the wok over medium-high heat, then add 1 T oil just until it shimmers.
  8. Stirfry the meat just until it loses its pink color, then remove to a second plate.
  9. Heat the wok over medium-high heat, then add the last 1 T oil just until it shimmers.
  10. Explode the ginger root and scallions just until fragrant, give the sauce ingredients a quick stir and add them to the wok.
  11. Allow the sauce to thicken, then cook approximately 1 m to get rid of the starchy taste.
  12. Add the meat back to the sauce, stirfry briefly until the meat is cooked through, then arrange on top of the broccoli.

Chicken with Chinese Broccoli

Here’s a chicken version of Pork Shreds with Broccoli. Again, you can use Chinese broccoli or substitute western broccoli (or even broccoli rabe). This dish often contains oyster sauce, but I have found that leaving it out is not a huge loss and cuts down on the processed ingredients involved.

I encourage you to use organic, free-range chicken if you can: the flavor is exquisite, and you will be doing your body and the environment a favor! You can find a vendor near you by visiting Local Harvest.

ingredients:

  • 10 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast meat
  • 6 oz Chinese broccoli
  • 1 scallion
  • 2 slices fresh ginger root
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 T oil

marinade:

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp tapioca flour or cornstarch
  • 1 T Shaoxing cooking wine

sauce:

  • 1 tsp tapioca flour or cornstarch
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 T cold water or broth

method:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. Rinse and pat the chicken dry, then slice across the grain into thin (1/8″) slices approximately 1/2×1″ in size.
  3. Combine the chicken with the marinade ingredients and marinate 15-30 m. Drain off any excess marinade before cooking.
  4. Soak the Chinese broccoli in cool water, rinse and repeat until no grit remains in the sink or bowl.
  5. Mince the scallion, ginger, and garlic, combine and set aside in a bowl.
  6. Combine the sauce ingredients and set aside in a bowl.
  7. Plunge the broccoli into the boiling water just until bright green and tender but still crunchy, then remove and allow it to cool just enough to handle. Cut it into 1.5″ lengths and arrange on the serving plate.
  8. Heat the oil in the wok over high heat just until it shimmers, then explode the scallion, ginger, and garlic just until fragrant.
  9. Add the chicken, stirfrying just until it loses its pink color.
  10. Add the sauce ingredients and stirfry 1-2 m more, at which point the chicken should be cooked through and the sauce should no longer taste starchy.
  11. Adjust the seasoning, arrange on top of the broccoli, and serve.

nutritional data:

This is truly a healthful dish containing a low percentage of calories from fat and a lot of lean protein in addition to a good portion of vegetables. The cholesterol and sodium levels are acceptable unless you are really watching your intake of those two nutrients. You could reduce the sodium content if you play with the amount of salt and soy sauce used. The recipe serves 4 as part of a larger meal and the figures are given per serving.

  • Total calories 98, calories from fat 11
  • Total fat 1 g, saturated fat 0 g
  • Cholesterol 41 mg
  • Sodium 446 mg
  • Total carbs 4 g, dietary fiber 1 g, sugars 1 g
  • Protein 17 g

Pork Shreds with Chinese Broccoli

This is another very quick stirfry with a beautiful presentation (you’ll look really professional if you cook it for friends – little do they know it’s super-easy!)

For a discussion of Chinese broccoli, see Stirfried Broccoli (Chinese or Not). For this recipe you could substitute our traditional western broccoli – I would, however, just blanch it until bright green and slightly tender, then skip the stirfrying step for the greens.

For pork, you can use just about any cut (the shreds are small and marinated, so they will be tender), but I strongly urge you to find pastured pork – better flavor, better for your body, and better for the environment. You can find a supplier at Local Harvest.

I usually try to stick to fresh, whole, easy-to-find ingredients and avoid processed foods as much as possible, but this recipe is so delicious, we make the occasional exception (all things in moderation, and all that!) Tian mian jiang, translated “sweet flour sauce/paste”, is sort of a mystery ingredient – I have only ever seen it used in a very few recipes, all in cookbooks in Chinese. Googling it isn’t much help – you can find some threads about it online, but none are particularly helpful. In any case, the jar in front of me claims to contain “bean, flour, salt,” but makes me wonder about where the sweetness came from. It is dark reddish-brown and salty-sweet. You can find it in Asian markets in the condiment section and in the Asian section of some conventional stores that serve large Chinese populations. Can’t find it? An acceptable substitute would be hoisin sauce; another would be the darkest miso you can find – this will, however, give you less of the sweet taste (you can add a bit of brown sugar) and less of the dark color, which will take away from the appearance if not the taste of the dish.

ingredients:

  • 8 oz pork, cut across the grain into 1/8×1/8×1.5″ shreds
  • 8 oz Chinese broccoli
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 2 slices fresh ginger root, minced

marinade:

  • 1 T Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 T ginger juice (grate and squeeze 1 large knob of fresh ginger root)
  • 2 tsp tapioca flour or cornstarch

sauce:

  • 1 T light soy sauce
  • 1 T tian mian jiang or hoisin sauce

method:

  1. Combine the meat shreds with the marinade ingredients and allow to rest at least 15 m.
  2. Soak the Chinese broccoli in cool water, rinse and repeat until no grit remains in the sink or bowl.
  3. Pull off the leaves and set aside, then peel the stems and roll-cut into 1.5″ sections, set aside separately from the leaves.
  4. Combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  5. Heat 1 T oil in the wok over high heat until it shimmers, add the broccoli stems and stirfry until tender. You can actually stir, then cover, stir, then cover – this will speed up the cooking process – just be careful not to overcook, or the color will be a drab olive instead of a bright green.
  6. Add the leaves and stirfry just until they are bright green and wilted. If your wok is small, don’t crowd it – cook the greens in 2 batches. Arrange the greens on the bottom of the serving plate.
  7. Heat 1 T oil in the wok over high heat until it shimmers, then explode the scallion and ginger until fragrant.
  8. Add the pork, and stirfry just until the outside loses its pink color, approximately 1 m.
  9. Add the sauce ingredients, and keep stirfrying until the meat is just cooked through and covered with sauce, approximately 1 m.
  10. Adjust the seasoning, add the meat to the top of the greens, and serve.

nutritional data:

This recipe serves 4 as part of a larger meal, and nutrition information is per serving. The fat and sodium content are naturally higher in this type of dish due to the use of meat and also because of the tian mian jiang, which is similar to soy sauce in its sodium content. Again, my best advice – serve with lots of brown rice and make sure the other dishes are vegetable-centric and low in sodium. To cut down on fat, you could certainly blanch the Chinese broccoli instead of stirfrying it. This is a special treat at our house, not a dish we eat weekly.

  • Total calories 171, calories from fat 94
  • Total fat 11 g, saturated fat 2 g
  • Cholesterol 33 mg
  • Sodium 419 mg
  • Total carbs 5 g, dietary fiber 1 g, sugars 1 g
  • Protein 13 g