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Seek Out Fresh Kohlrabi For This Savory Pasta Dish

Fennel-Kohlrabi Pasta. Illustrates ONTHEFRIDGE (category d), by Bonnie S. Benwick (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

Fennel-Kohlrabi Pasta. Illustrates ONTHEFRIDGE (category d), by Bonnie S. Benwick (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

At this time of year, you must remain intrepid in your search for fresh kohlrabies, the ancient Little Green Men of the brassica family. What should be available almost year-round is not so popular of late, so grocery chains tend to shrug off their hit-or-miss restocking. Ask for kohlrabi by name, as they say. Its white flesh is crisp, mild, a little sweet and juicy. Eat it raw or cooked.

We picked up a mega-bulb. After carving it up for this recipe, we’ll be blanching it briefly, shocking it in cold water, drying it well, then freezing it for up to one month — all in service of making this unusual, savory pasta dish again.

If however, tracking it down proves difficult on a weeknight, celery root may be used here instead.

Serve with a salad of bitter greens and green grapes.

Adapted from The Breakaway Cook: Recipes That Break Away From the Ordinary, by Eric Gower (William Morrow, 2007).

4 servings

Ingredients

Kosher salt

12 ounces dried linguine, fettuccine or long fusilli

1 medium red onion

1 medium leek

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon ground fennel seed

Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup carrot juice

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 small or medium fennel bulb

1 small or medium kohlrabi Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt, then the pasta. Cook according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, cut the red onion into small dice. Trim off and discard the root end and dark-green parts of the leek. Cut the remaining white/light-green part in half lengthwise and rinse well under cool running water. Cut into small dice.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter with 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the red onion and leek, stirring to coat, then add the ground fennel and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until the solids soften. Stir in the carrot juice, cream and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting.

(At this point, if you have the time, use an immersion/stick blender to puree the mixture in the pan.)

While that mixture is cooking, cut the fennel bulb in half. Discard the core, then cut the rest into 1/2-inch pieces. Peel the kohlrabi, then cut the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces. You want at least a 1-cup yield from each vegetable.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of butter and tablespoon of oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel and kohlrabi, stirring to coat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring a few times, just until the vegetables are tender but not completely soft.

Toss the drained pasta in the carrot juice mixture so it’s well coated; tongs or chopsticks are good for this. Add some or all of the remaining 1/2 cup of cooking water to make sure there’s enough sauce.

Transfer the cooked fennel and kohlrabi to the saute pan; toss lightly to incorporate. Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls. Serve right away; pass the cheese at the table.

Nutrition Per serving: 520 calories, 13 g protein, 79 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar