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Meet the Seasonal Stand-In for Marinated Artichokes (That's Also Less Work)

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You know that feeling when you want to cook with artichokes but you don’t because you’re lazy they can be a challenge? The answer to this problem is surprisingly simple: kohlrabi! I know the skeptics are asking themselves how this humble, obscure vegetable can possibly deliver a flavor and texture similar to an artichoke heart. But one of the greatest culinary secrets of all time, in my opinion, is if you boil whole kohlrabi until they're tender, peel off the skin, cut them into bitesize pieces, and marinate them in garlic, chili, lemon, herbs, and olive oil, they will taste delicious—and vaguely reminiscent of marinated artichoke hearts.

Marinated Kohlrabi (In the Style of Artichoke Hearts)
Marinated Kohlrabi (In the Style of Artichoke Hearts)

Years from now, when food historians and cultural anthropologists are studying how marinated kohlrabi became ubiquitous across the United States, I hope that they find this recipe I came across a while back during the Your Best Recipe with Parmesan contest. I was happy with the way that the gnocchi turned out, but was more struck by the simple flavor of boiled kohlrabi.

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A sliver of raw kohlrabi tastes crisp, wet, and refreshing, like a cross between radish and jicama. However, when the whole thing is boiled, it becomes soft, vegetal, and mildly sweet, just like an artichoke heart. The benefit of working with kohlrabi is you avoid the labor involved with cooking/eating whole artichokes. Now don’t get me wrong, I love artichokes, but it’s important to let people know there is another option, and its name is kohlrabi. Plus, you can eat kohlrabi nearly almost year-round, not just in the spring.

Can you spy the kohlrabi? (Hint: It's on the left.)
Can you spy the kohlrabi? (Hint: It's on the left.) Photo by James Ransom

Full disclosure: A boiled kohlrabi does not taste exactly like an artichoke heart. The taste will also evoke memories of roasted turnips or sautéed broccoli stems. Be that as it may, the fun part of boiled kohlrabi is it marinates really well, making it a great make-ahead appetizer option and depending on how you flavor the marinating oil, the kohlrabi could taste spicy and acidic or herbaceous and peppery.

The next time you’re planning on serving an antipasto spread of breads, cheeses, olives, and salumi, add a bowl of marinated kohlrabi. It will feel right at home.

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Marinated Kohlrabi (In the Style of Artichoke Hearts)

40f4e192 1d25 4f40 b8f3 90ea1bdb64f6  unnamed Josh Cohen
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Makes approximately 3 cups marinated kohlrabi
  • 5 medium-sized kohlrabi, outer stems and leaves removed
  • Salt
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large clove of garlic, cut in half
  • 1 pinch dried chili flakes
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 strip of lemon zest, taken using a vegetable peeler
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Tell us: Do you think you'd be able to tell the difference between marinated kohlrabi and artichoke hearts?