Posts Tagged ‘Heirloom’

What an experience. It is rare now a days that I come across an ingredient that I am not familiar with.  I have always been curious about Kohlrabi but never got around to working with it until now.  So I do a bit of research on the web to see what it is like and the comments are it’s like a turnip, no kinda like broccoli, no more like a turnip with broccoli over tones and the descriptions go on and on and on. So now that I am not too much further along than I was before I decide to go get some and start to play with it.  I pick up a few proteins to go with it since I’m not quite sure what to expect.  I get home, peel the stuff and taste it  and it is has a sweet flavor with the texture of a turnip and the finish of broccoli.

Time to experiment with it, slice it thin, fry it puree it etc… and see what works well with it and then I settled on creating this recipe which I think uses the vegetable in a variety of ways along with the flavor of rosemary.  And the flavor combination well that was something wonderful. I like kohlrabi and look forward to using it more often.

Pan Seared Opah with Kohlrabi 3 ways – orange braised greens, rosemary roasted and heirloom tomato triangles with a rosemary aiolirico-1732-13

Recipe yield 2 mid sized entree portions

Roasted Rosemary Kohlrabi sticks

2 kohlrabi bulbs

2 tsp rosemary

1/4 cup olive oil

salt & pepper


Kohlrabi sticks coated with olive oil, rosemary salt & Pepper

Heat oven to 350º and place empty sheet pan in oven. Peel two kohlrabi bulb and cut off both ends. Putting the kohlrabi buld flat on your cutting board cut one edge off to make it flat on one side. Put that side on the cutting board and slice into 3/8″ thick slices. You can slice them to your desired thickness. Cut each slice into 3/8″ wide sticks. Put into bowl with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper and mix well so all the sticks are well coated. Once oven is heated wait 10 minutes then put sticks on hot sheet pan and put back  in the oven. set the timer for 30 minutes.  Check the sticks after 20 minutes and turn sticks over to allow to brown on the other side. Check again after 30 mins and if the other sides are not brown then leave in the over until they are or you are happy with them.  Taste them when you pull them out and if needed add more salt to taste.

Orange Braised Kohlrabi Greens

1.5 cups of Kohlrabi greens

1 tsp garlic

2 tsp rosemary

1.5 c water

1/4 cup orange juice from concentrate

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Wash kohlrabi greens and separate leaves from stems discarding the stems. Chop into small pieces. Finely chop rosemary and garlic. Heat pan and add a bit of olive oil to coat. Once the pan is hot add kohlrabi greens salt and pepper and saute for about a minute. Next add all other ingredients and mix.

Beginning Braise            End braise just a bit of moisture

Beginning Braise End braise just a bit of moisture

Let the greens simmer on medium heat until liquid has pretty much evaporated. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Heirloom Tomato Kohlrabi triangles

1/2 medium sized heirloom Tomato

1/4 kohlrabi bulb

1/4 tsp finely chopped rosemary


Fleur de cel or flakey salt

truffle oil or really good olive oil


Mandoline ready to slice Slices Ready to assemble

Peel kohlrabi and slice off ends. Using a mandolin slice kohlrabi into 1/16″ thick slices. Finely chop rosemary. Slice heirloom tomato into 1/4″ slices. Place one slice of kohlrabi down on cutting board and sprinkle a bit of rosemary, fleur de cel and pepper on one side. Center tomato slice over the kohlrabi and top with a second slice of kohlrabi. Carefully cut into 4 equal triangles. Finish on plate with truffle oil or really good olive oil and a bit of fleur de cel

Rosemary Aioli

Ingredients ready to mix and add oil

Ingredients ready to mix and add oil

Zest one lemon and then juice. Place egg yolk, rosemary, garlic, lemon juice, honey and dijon mustard in food processor and turn on to allow all ingredients to mix together.

Next slowly add oil a bit at a time until it is all in.  Mix for another 30 seconds and taste the aioli.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

Pan seared rosemary Opah

Trim bloodline from Opah. Cut filet into 4 ounce pieces for appetizer or first course and 6 to 8 ounce pieces for entree portion.  Make sure that the cuts are square so it will stand up on all 6 sides in the pan. In a bowl mix olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. Place Opah in bowl and coat completely.

Coated Opah Ready to sear

Coated Opah Ready to sear

Heat pan and coat lightly with oil. Make sure it is very hot but not smoking. Place opah filet in pan and sear. You can see it cooking by looking at the ends of the fish. Once it begins to cook about 1/4 inch on a 1 to 1.5″ thick piece then turn it to the next side until all 6 sides have been seared.


Searing evenly on all sides

Be sure not to leave the Opah searing too long or it will dry out.  Once it is done it can be anywhere from medium rare (similar to seared Ahi) to Medium.  Both are very nice.


Place kohlrabi tomato triangles on plate on opposite side stack the kohlrabi sticks, put aioli on plate and braised greens next to it and top with the opah. Put a bit of aioli on top of opah and garnish with lemon zest.

The flavor combination is wonderful. The delicate flavor of he Opah works beautifully with the rosemary aioli. The greens have an nice balance of slight bitterness which is offset by the citrus and complimented by the garlic and rosemary. When combining all the flavors on the plate you get a wonderful symphony of flavors that work beautifully together on the palate.  I hope you enjoy this recipe.

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My Friend Debra Prinzing wrote this article on her blog about the rooftop garden at Blue Velvet Restaurant.  She was kind enough to allow me to post it on my blog using some of my photos.

I wrote about Los Angeles’s gardens-in-the-sky in 2007, so when my chef-photographer friend Rico Mandel told me about a rooftop vegetable and herb garden that fellow chef Jonathan McDowell had been cultivating, I was excited to learn more. And to see it!

We grabbed a Starbucks and hopped on the freeway a few days ago to drive to downtown Los Angeles. On the way, I told Rico about an article I had just read in the January 2009 issue of Growing for Market, a journal for local food and flower producers. It was written by Marc Boucher-Colbert, a Portland sustainable farmer who created Rocket Restaurant’s rooftop garden with table-high steel planting troughs and 39 lightweight “kiddie” wading pools.

“Kiddie pools – how do you like that?” I asked Rico. “That’s cheap, lightweight and clever, isn’t it?” He silently chuckled to himself. Later, I understood why. Because what Jonathan had to show us was as far from a plastic wading pool as you could get.


Photo Debra Prinzing

Blue Velvet restaurant occupies the ground floor of a 10-story, 1960s-looking (but new) apartment building – all horizontal lines and clean facade. Jonathan met us in the parking lot and took us up the elevator to the top floor; we climbed a flight of stairs and emerged onto the roof.

Rico hinted about the totally unusual, sculptural design that contains Blue Velvet’s edible crop, but there was no way I could have envisioned the fluid, galvanized metal, Frank Gehryesque installation in front of me. What the . . . ?

Plants growing on tiers

Plants growing on tiers

Cabbage and Dill

Cabbage and Dill

Squash & cabbage overlooking downtown LA

Turns out, this creation was fabricated on site to mold up and across a bleacher-like frame that hides HVAC units and other commercial rooftop paraphernalia.

It begins as a 10-foot vertical installation of long, horizontal channels – stacked almost like a wall of roof gutters. Many of the sections are planted with trailing rosemary. We marveled at the metal material. Even though Rico and I visited on a dreary, cool day in June, there’s no denying Southern California’s heat and sun effect. “Oh, well, this wall is north-facing, so at least it’s away from the most intense heat,” I commented.

“Wait until you see the rest of the roof,” Jonathan promised.

We walked a few yards across the roof, following that vertical wall of herbs, and I noticed how this “metal farm” took on kinetic qualities, wrapping over and around the “stuff” on the roof (and in the process, facing due south!).



Purple Peppers

Purple Peppers

To get an idea of how this scheme looks in person, take a sheet of paper from your printer and fold it back and forth every 1/2-inch or so. This is how we made paper “fans” when we were kids. Open up the paper slightly so there are V-shaped pleats. Now, imagine translating that texture to sheet metal. The V-shapes create long planting channels, about 4- to 8-inches at the deepest point. Sections of the metal, welded together every 18-20 inches or so, take form, twisting, bending and turning as a beautiful sculpture.

rico-0387But for all practicality, in responding to this design as a gardener, I have to admit that a million questions flooded my mind. How can tender herbs, greens and vegetables handle this sun-baked, roots-against-metal, rooftop condition, especially in July and August when it is ugly-hot? Moreover, where was the irrigation?

Jonathan, who just completed a four-year stint at Blue Velvet (two years as sous-chef and two years as head chef), looked at me and shrugged. Although he wasn’t involved in the design of the “garden,” Jonathan was tasked with figuring out how to grow plants in it. That has meant filling those pockets and grooves with soil and planting veggies in an artful way. There’s no denying this is an evocative design. “It pleases the eye,” Chef Jonathan acknowledges. “It has attracted a lot of attention.”

But – duh. Every square inch of this garden has to be hand-watered.

“In L.A.’s restaurant gardens, freshness is grown to order,” a May 20th Los Angeles Times Food article, Betty Hallock featured Blue Velvet’s rooftop garden, quoting its designer, architect Alexis Rochas: “The point was to experiment with how to turn infertile ground into a fertile one,” he said.

Chef Jonathan McDowell and Chef-photographer Rico MandelChef Jonathan McDowell and Chef-photographer Rico Mandel
Writer & Chef

Debra Prinzing, Writer & Chef Jonathon McDowell

That’s an admirable goal. But the experiment has revealed that plants here don’t thrive against metal, and the absence of drip irrigation – that could direct moisture straight to root zones – is a negative. I’m worried that those hand-watering duties will likely be neglected when the guys in the kitchen get super busy!

Metromix Los Angeles recently featured “rooftop gardens” in a trend report by Krista Simmons. She included Blue Velvet’s in-the-sky garden, calling it “a sweeping silver flatbed . . . strikingly similar to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.” Simmons points out that the garden doesn’t generate enough to sustain the restaurant, but adds: “. . . McDowell does use the produce for tasting menus, amuse bouches and specialty holiday events.”

I applaud the rooftop restaurant garden. It’s a great vehicle to bring the “seasonal, sustainable and local” concept from garden to plate. To succeed, however, Blue Velvet needs a retrofit. Maybe getting an irrigation specialist up to that rooftop will help. Ask a professional market farmer or gardener to consult on how to better grow and sustain these poor little plants – they looked pretty stressed out! After all, part of the sustainable equation is to work with nature and create a supportive growing environment so that plants are productive and bountiful.

More reading: INHABIT, a design blog

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Ahhhhh, the luscious tomato. Fruit or vegetable? Here in the States that is the question. (Technically, it’s a fruit.) A question of  far greater importance is, What happened to the flavor of the commercial tomato? Thanks to agribusiness and large-scale production of the tomato,  much of the natural flavor and sweetness has been bioengineered out of it in favor of uniform shape and ease of processing.  As a result,  commercially grown supermarket tomatoes for the most part are virtually tasteless.
It was in 2000 on a trip to Greece where I first discovered the tomato as a fruit. They were a deep red and actually tasted the way I always dreamed a tomato should. A sweet flavor, like a cross between plum and a peach. They were completely addictive. I became obsessed with them. To get the rich sweet flesh between my teeth and down the gullet was an experience that could not be overlooked.   I was seated at a table on a warm afternoon overlooking the caldera on Santorini Island, a plate of sweet, moist sensual tomatoes in front of me dressed only with some olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and an ice cold Mythos beer to wash it down. It was the height of decadence to be in this exquisite environment with such a perfect specimen. I kept  thinking, Why can’t I get this kind of tomato back home? Thus began my quest to recreate that experience here in the States. Upon my return I discovered the closest thing to those tomatoes were the multiple varieties of Heirloom tomatoes we have here. Over the years I have grown several different kinds with varying success. Through trial and error I have found that I need to plant them in April or, if it’s a particularly warm winter, even as early as March. This way I can enjoy them for most of the summer. There are so many varieties and each one has its own unique flavor, some sweeter and some a bit more tart. I especially love the Brandywine and the large yellow and red variety. This year I was given 7 plants from a friend of mine, Debra Prinzing. She and I are planting them in our separate gardens and will be documenting the progress and seeing what develops in the coming months. This past Sunday, April 26th, I got around to planting them. I am not a professional gardner, but each year I learn a little more about what to do in the garden. I don’t like to use pesticides, and try to keep things as organic as possible.

Tomato on Foodista

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