It’s boring to eat the same old produce every week, especially when mother nature is giving us so much exotic variety to play with. Crazy cool celery root, bright purple kohlrabi with those cute little spaceship looking arms, and magical bulbous fennel are just a few of my winter favorites. Don’t be afraid–ugly and exotic vegetables are hidden beauties just waiting to be discovered! . This week, grab a friend (preferably a curious child) and take a little adventure with me. I’m betting you’ll discover some new favorite sides, salads, and go-to comfort food techniques that are also loaded with that healthy, not boring good stuff!
Let’s start with my new favorite comfort food recipe, Rosemary Roasted Celery Root and Potatoes. If you have never tried celery root, this recipe is a great one to get you started and you can make it in 25 minutes end-to-end. I adore potatoes but for anyone trying to pack in even more nutrition with less glycemic load, celery root is your go-to substitute. It’s loaded with fiber, flavor, vitamins like B6 and K, and here’s a bonus: it only has 30 calories per ½ cup serving! If you’re not sure how to cut into a celery root, check out my 1-minute video to learn how easy it can be!
Celery root may be an ugly vegetable on the outside, but once you peel back its hairy exterior, you find a creamy delicious inner vegetable that’s divine in a simple salad. My Crazy Cool Celery Root and Apple Salad is inspired by the way I’ve eaten it in France, with a simple tangy yogurt dressing and hints of tarragon. Crunchy and delicious, I round out this salad with a handful of warm and nutty walnuts and dried cranberries on top!
Are you ready to go full on exotic? Run, don’t meander to make my Cheesy Creamy Kohlrabi Fennel Gratin! If you’re not already familiar with fennel, this recipe will bring you to you knees in love with this anise scented veggie. After quickly blanching your diced fennel and kohlrabi in boiling salted water, you simply toss it with a generous portion of creamy Parmesan and fresh thyme, pop it in the oven, and what comes out 30 minutes later is a heavenly creamy casserole of goodness. Just be sure to always pick the more rounded, voluptuous bulbs at the market. My Italian cooking teacher says they are the female fennel, and of course they are sweeter and have more flavor! Mangia!
- kohlrabi (purple or green), 3 small
- fennel, 2 large
- thyme (fresh), about 3 TBS
- parmesan cheese (grated), 1 1/2 cups
- olive oil, 3 TBS
- salt, 1/2 tsp
- black pepper, 1/4 tsp
- Take 5 minutes to get out all your ingredients, measuring and cooking equipment needed, and place them on a cookie sheet within easy reach.
- Wash all produce.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. For every eight cups of water, use ½ tablespoon of salt.
- Trim fennel of the rougher outer edges and bottom core. Cut off the stems (not used in this recipe but could be used another time to flavor a soup or broth). Cut medium thick slices from the fennel bulb and then medium dice.
- Peel kohlrabi. Cut each into two halves. Make medium thick slices and then cut into medium dice.
- Grate Parmesan cheese, if not already grated.
- Pick off the leaves from the thyme branches and chop them finely. Place in a large mixing bowl along with 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Note: it may feel like a lot of thyme, but this recipe can handle it!
- Blanch fennel and kohlrabi by placing them into the salted boiling water for three minutes. Drain in a colander after cooking.
- Immediately transfer to the bowl with the thyme and other ingredients. Stir together while still warm.
- Transfer to a baking dish and top with the remaining ½ cup grated cheese. Cover and bake at 375F for 25 minutes.
- Remove the tinfoil and brown the top of the gratin under the broiler, about 2-3 minutes.