A global favorite yet barely known in this country, kohlrabi is a rather sweet vegetable with a mild, broccoli-like flavor. When it's quickly cooked and then pureed, it can become a creamy (if cream-free) canvas for delicate, sweet enoki mushrooms and crunchy, salty peanuts. Talk about juxtapositions and contrasts! That said, the best things in this dish may well be the grilled scallions. Their smoky sweetness ties these other, earthier ingredients together -- especially once they're spiked with sambal oelek, a fiery condiment.
6 medium kohlrabi (each just slightly smaller than a baseball)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 ounces enoki mushrooms, cleaned
1/2 cup salted, roasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
Up to 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
1. Trim the stems off the kohlrabi, peel them, and cut them into quarters. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the kohlrabi and boil until tender, about 15 minutes.
2. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the kohlrabi to a food processor (reserve the cooking water). Add the salt to the kohlrabi and cool for a few minutes. Then puree the kohlrabi, adding just enough of the cooking water through the tube to make a silky puree -- not so thin that it runs, but about like a minimally grainy sauce, a puree that holds its shape like a soft, slightly runny whipped cream. Less liquid is better.
3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the scallions until marked and soft, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a platter; maintain the heat under the grill pan.
4. Grill the mushrooms just until barely softened, less than 1 minute, without turning. Transfer to the platter with the scallions.
5. To serve, divide the kohlrabi puree among 8 small serving plates. Top with scallions and mushrooms, all grill-marked sides up. Sprinkle with the peanuts. Whisk the oil and sambal in a small bowl. Drizzle on top.
Make the puree up to 4 hours in advance. Store, covered, at room temperature.
Make the rest of the recipe through step 4 up to 1 hour in advance. Store the scallions and mushrooms at room temperature.
To make that kohlrabi puree, start out with no cooking water in the food processor, then add it in very small amounts, no more than 1 tablespoon for the first splash, then in smaller increments after that.
The best tool for turning and eventually retrieving those softened scallions are cooking tongs.
Enoki mushrooms are sometimes sold attached in a clump. Clean them but keep them together for easier grilling. You can break them apart right before serving.
Sambal oelek is one of dozens of sambals, which are hot sauces from Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Sambal oelek is a wet mix of chiles, vinegar, and salt; other sambals will be too complicated for this dish.
Reprinted from Vegetarian Dinner Parties by Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough. Copyright (c) 2014 by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.
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