Cooking Chapbook

Notes from my kitchen in the D.C. area & beyond

Tag: rice

Meet my new friend, Kohlrabi

I had spied this strange pale green guy at the market long ago.

I wondered what it was. A blanched beet? A spidery wild cabbage? A leafy green married to a veggie tuber?

But as this interminable German winter is dissipating, I thought – who cares what it is! I better buy one soon! What if this little alien decided to lift off and disappear?


My line-up of Kohlrahi. Can you identify the perpetrator?

And so, here we are. Faced with Kohlrabi, aka a German turnip.

I felt rather certain that I hadn’t seen this vegetable before and that it would be missing in action from my favorite cookbooks. But nope. There it was.


Here’s how “The Flavor Bible” describes it:

“Kohlrabi is an underrated vegetable. I admit it has not always been one of my favorites, but it has grown on me over the years. Now, I love it. I can’t precisely place its flavor, which is somewhere between a turnip, radish, and cauliflower.” – Vitaly Paley, Paley’s Place in Portland, Oregon

Vitaly goes on to say how versatile it is. His favorite way to make it is grilled or roasted and drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. (I was intrigued, but my grillmaster was absentee.)

Then I turned to Mark Bittman. I am ridiculously delighted when I find a gap in his classic “How to Cook Everything,” (it must be my old copy-editing self, the way-too-literal side of my brain). But he had kohlrabi covered:

“A bizarre-looking vegetable that’s treated like a turnip. The whole plant is edible, cooked or raw, but it’s the bulbous steam base that’s prized for its sweet, slightly piquant flavor and crisp texture.”

Peeling was recommended, but first, I wanted to peek inside.


A Kohlrabi butt

I trimmed the arms off, turned it over, and sliced it in half.

Kohlrabi in half

Two halves make a whole Kohlrabi

Here’s the inside. It looked rather like the inside of an apple or a radish to me.

Kohlrabi slices

Kohlrabi slices

Having no earthly idea what to do with it, I hacked it into slices.

The taste is very fresh, sort of like the great hit you get from an apple straight from the tree – but not sweet. Raw Kohlrabi is crisp, like a radish, but with the flavor impression of a snap pea plucked from a garden tendril. Very nice.

But I couldn’t eat all that raw Kohlrabi. I needed to cook it.

Kohlrabi gratin? Kohlrabi risotto? Roasted Kohlrabi?

I was still confused what Kohlrabi would taste like cooked, so I turned to “The Flavor Bible” for ideas. It recommended, among other things, soy sauce. Recommended cooking techniques included stir-fry.

So that’s where I headed. (Plus, we had leftover steak and rice from last night, and a red bell pepper waiting to be used. And we always have garlic and onions.)

Ten minutes later, my first Kohlrabi lunch:

Kohlrabi stir fry

Kohlrabi stir fry

The Kohlrabi softens nicely, with a clean, savory taste that fit in with everything else well. I even got daring after a test bite and squirted fish sauce over the entire pan!

Kohlrabi turned out to be simpler to deal with than other veggies, like artichokes or even pesky broccoli with all its florets. I think Kohlrabi will definitely be circling for a return visit.


Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice pudding

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice

Of all the Filipino foods I know so far – maybe 0.1% of the lexicon – the one that baffles me is champorado. I love chocolate. I love rice pudding. I love salty little fish. And yet …

Essentially chocolate rice pudding, champorado is thick, warm, deeply chocolate, and often served with salty, dried fish. For breakfast. Perhaps you can understand my confusion. Or perhaps you are in my sweetheart’s camp.

He loves it, adores it, craves it. We’re too far right now for his mother to cook up a delicious batch, so I thought I’d try to stir up a bowl for his birthday.

Ingredients for Champorado

Ingredients for champorado

His family had months ago given us cocoa tablets and a jar of tuyo, the tiny fish. They were sitting in the cabinet, watching the cans of tomatoes and coconut milk come and go, and patiently waiting for their day under the stove light.

Ingredients for Champorado

Cocoa tablets for champorado

My sweetheart thought I could use our everyday white long-grain rice, but none of the many recipes I checked out, including the one his mother kindly sent, mentioned ordinary rice. And this champorado would be like a birthday cake! It called for special-occasion rice: short-grain, sticky, sweet rice.

Rice cooking for Champorado

Rice soaking for Champorado

Sweet rice needs to be soaked for 20 minutes or so before you cook it. The nice part is no extra dish is required. I poured 1 cup of sweet rice in a small pot, covered it with 1 1/3 cup water, and let it sit.

Rice cooking for Champorado

I love the little designs the pebbles of rice make.

Then I cranked up the heat until the water boiled. Once it was boiling, I turned it down to the lowest setting, covered the pot, and let the rice cook for another 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, in another small pot, I boiled 2 cups of water. Then I added 3 tablets and 1/4 cup sugar. I let it bubble and simmer and break down while the rice cooked.

Once the rice was done, I mixed in the pot of chocolate into the rice to make a rich porridge.



I let the rice pudding simmer until it cooked down a little bit. You can cook it longer, if you’d like more water to absorb.

Eat it with dried fish, if you like. Some of my favorite people do.

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice