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What’s fresh and how to use it

Alien vegetable

Deirdre Parker Smith/Salisbury Post Koji and kohlrabi, two vegetables you may not know much about.

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

This early in the season at the Farmer’s Market, you will find a variety of plants, especially tomatoes, along with bowls of several kinds of lettuce, Swiss chard and herbs.

At Correll Farms’ tent, bowls of mixed herbs — basil, dill, cilantro and parsley, along with some oregano, are a compact way to grow fresh herbs.

You’ll have to water it every day and cut from it almost as often so it will keep producing but not take over and outgrow the pot.

Just looking at it was inspiring for weekend recipes.

We got fresh shrimp and I made a basil-lemon mayonnaise to dip it in.

So I was able to use the tops from the fast-growing basil in the pot, and my husband trimmed the dill for a pasta salad side dish.

It’s so easy to dress up mayonnaise into another sauce. Want a seafood sauce? Add some cocktail sauce and lemon juice to mayonnaise, snip in some dill or chives, voila.

The basil mayo was about 2/3 cup mayonnaise, a heaping tablespoon of chopped, fresh basil, the zest of a lemon and the juice of half of that lemon. It was great on shrimp that had been roasted.

To roast the shrimp, line a baking sheet with foil (easier cleanup) and melt about half a stick of butter in a 400-degree oven. Remove from oven when sizzling, but not brown.

If you haven’t bought peeled, deveined shrimp, peel and devein first. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and put on the hot baking sheet. Don’t burn yourself.

Cook 8-10 minutes, until shrimp turn pink and begin to curl. Remove from oven, sprinkle with the juice of a lemon and serve, adding spoonfuls of the butter and lemon juice from the pan. Dip in the basil-lemon mayonnaise.

Other early vegetables include kohlrabi, which always puzzles people. It does look like a plant from Mars, with its bulb and random stalks, or like a green Sputnik that was lost in space. Kohlrabi, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale are all cousins.

The best way to eat it is raw. Peel it, slice it, sprinkle it with salt and maybe a drizzle of olive oil.

It has a flavor like radishes mixed with turnip. It’s good in a salad.

It’s great roasted, which sweetens and mellows the flavor. It’s good with other roasted veggies, especially with eggplants or potatoes.

Since cauliflower seems to be everywhere these days — as a substitute for mashed potatoes, in place of rice or cooked into a pizza crust, pair it with kohlrabi for a bright, creamy side dish.

The recipe is from The Lemon Bowl

Mashed Cauliflower and Kohlrabi

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 kohlrabi, peeled and cut in large chunks

1/2 cup plain yogurt or Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp. horseradish

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 cup chives plus 2 Tbsp.

Using a steamer basket, bring 3 inches of water to a boil, then add cauliflower and kohlrabi.

Steam until veggies are fork tender, about 8-10 minutes.

One veggies are cooked, pour out the cooking water and remove steamer basket.

Add veggies back to the same pan and use a potato masher to mash the veggies.

Add yogurt, horseradish, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of chives.

For an even smoother texture, use an emersion blender or electric mixer. Serve with chives on top.

Koji sat next to the kohlrabi, and it’s harder to find recipes for that. Koji, if you look it up, is a fermented seasoning used in Japanese cooking. Koji greens are fine for salads and stir fries, where it is often dressed with oyster sauce.

A salad of Asian greens, like bok choy and tatsoi, koji and maybe some Chinese mustard would be delicious with some rice wine vinegar, a light oil and some toasted sesame oil. Top with toasted sesame seeds for a delightfully different salad with lots of flavor.

If you are a lettuce salad person, the variety available now is pretty good. There’s Boston Bibb lettuce, butter lettuce, Romaine, red and green leaf lettuce, lettuce blends, lettuce plants.

Take a small adventure and add baby kale to the mix. Spinach was available at a couple places, too.

The Lys’ radishes looked as good as or better than what they had last week. Try slicing and roasting the radishes with some olive oil, salt and pepper. The sharpness mellows and they become nearly sweet. They taste great with pork.

Save on money, calories. sodium and sugar by making your own salad dressing.

Start with a basic vinaigrette — 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. vinegar (vary this according to your taste. Red wine vinegar is a favorite), salt and pepper.

Add herbs such as thyme, oregano, basil, dill, tarragon, mint. Mix thyme and oregano for one variation. Add basil and tarragon for a licorice hint. Use the same amount of oil with 2 Tbsp. lemon juice and 1 Tbsp. freshly chopped dill.

To make it creamy, add 2-3 Tbsp. mayonnaise, plain yogurt or sour cream.

Add 1 clove finely minced garlic to the creamy dressing, along with some chives or green onion.

Or enrich the creamy dressing with 1 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese and a bit more pepper.

For a mustard vinaigrette, add 1 tsp. or more prepared Dijon or wholegrain mustard and 2 tsp. minced shallot.

Once you know how to make vinaigrette, the possibilities are endless.

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