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Posted on Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 1:15 p.m.

A2eatwrite: Misadventures in the Kitchen: kohlrabi slaw

By Jennifer Shikes Haines

Shikes Haines cutting board with lime and ginger
A few days ago, on my blog a2eatwrite, I mentioned that I'd recently made kohlrabi slaw. This seemed to be a recipe of interest to my readers, and to be honest, the slaw I made that night was simply shredded kohlrabi tossed with Marzetti's Lite Slaw Dressing, salt and pepper. It was pretty darned good, but it wasn't the slaw of my dreams.

See, I had this recipe floating around in my head. I wanted an Asian slaw, using kohlrabi, apples, and carrots. This is the perfect time of year for this recipe, as all three are fresh at the Farmers Market and at area groceries.

I'd also promised some people to have it up for this week's What's Cooking Wednesday article.

So, I got out all my imagined ingredients, worked for a while yesterday making the recipe, and failed. Miserably.

I know. It happens to all of us. Nevertheless, I'm still thinking this recipe can work. There's something just ... off about the dressing. So, dear readers, I'm throwing this out to you to get your ideas and opinions. What would make this better? Where did I go wrong? Here is the current recipe:

Kohlrabi Slaw


3 cups raw, peeled kohlrabi, shredded (about one large)
2 medium, peeled carrots, shredded
1 large apple, preferably tart and firm, like a Granny Smith, peeled, cored and shredded
4 TBS toasted (or dry roasted) sunflower seeds
juice from 1/2 lemon (or 1 tsp bottled lemon juice)


1 TBS canola oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp low sodium tamari
1 TBS mirin
2 tsp honey
1 tsp fresh, grated ginger
juice from 1/2 lime (or 1 tsp bottled lime juice)
1 good squirt Sriracha sauce (or other hot sauce) to taste
2 TBS mayonnaise (Hellman's Light Mayonnaise was used here and that's reflected in the nutrition information)
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground fresh pepper


1. Whisk together dressing ingredients. Set aside.
2. Toast the sunflower seeds long enough to release a toasty smell. Don't let them brown, just change color a bit. Set aside.
3. Combine shredded kohlrabi, carrots and apples. Toss with lemon juice. Add cooled sunflower seeds.
4. Toss with dressing.
5. Chill for at least two hours, adjust for seasoning before serving.

Serves 8

Now, to even make this version edible, I ended up adding a teaspoon of sugar and another tablespoon of mayonnaise to what I've listed above. Um ... really not what I wanted originally.

Here are things I know I would do differently next time:

a. Throw out the tamari - it left an unpleasant, too-salty taste.
b. Leave out the apples - you can't distinguish them from the kohlrabi. I was thinking of adding shredded beets for color, but I think they'd add that salty flavor that I'm trying to avoid.
c. Get rid of the Chinese 5 spice - it made the slaw too spicy. What do you think might be a good substitute?
d. I'm not sure I want the mayonnaise at all.
e. Get rid of the lemon juice - I really only used it to prevent the apples from discoloration, but since I'm throwing out the apples, that's a moot point.
f. Add raisins?

Okay, cooking friends, what would you do to this to make it better? I'm going to take your suggestions, play around and hopefully post a great slaw recipe next week. Cheers!

I'm Jennifer Haines and my blog is a2eatwrite. Please contact me at: Jenshaines at gmail dot com or 734-662-1693.


Jennifer Shikes Haines

Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 7:57 p.m.

Hmmm.... Momisodes - oj. Interesting idea. What I think I'll be doing now is some different variations and have a taste-testing. I like the orange juice idea, though, especially with using the cranberries. Again, though, each would be different. Guess I'm getting a couple of kohlrabi at the Farmers Market tomorrow!


Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 7:48 p.m.

I'm not terribly sure, but I definitely agree on your last few changes. Perhaps use orange juice instead of lemon, and I agree that more honey may help.

Jennifer Shikes Haines

Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 7:03 p.m.

@Mike, thanks for your suggestions. I didn't swap out mirin for rice wine vinegar - originally I wanted the sweetness of the mirin. I now think that one of the mistakes I made was not using rice wine or another vinegar, but it was a conscious choice. Also, in terms of "all my recipes" on here - just to be clear, there were blueberry muffin and summer fruit cake recipes, which I didn't feel called for salt, and I did use salt in my fish tacos recipe - I think you have me mixed up with one of the other bloggers here. While beets have umami, to my palate, raw beets also have a salty feel, which is often ameliorated by quite a bit of sugar, and I just didn't want that for this particular recipe. Since julienned typically means 1 - 2" lengths, and what I was really meaning here was more irregular lengths, shredded seemed to me to be the proper term, but perhaps there's a specific terminology for kohlrabi that I wasn't aware of (ie. the convention of saying that cabbage is shredded, rather than julienned). I love the idea of black and toasted sesame seeds in this - I agree it would be a lovely flavor. I'm not sure I want mirin in it at all, but I will probably give your suggestions a go, because I agree that simple is good.

Mike Jennings

Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 3:56 p.m.

When you thought about adding beets you said you didn't want to because they would add a salty taste. They don't, unless they are salted. From what I've read in all of your recipes on here you under utilize salt if the first place. I think when you refer to the "salty flavor" of beets what you are really thinking about umami flavor. That's another flavor that I have noticed you shy away from. Also as for swaping out the mirin for rice vinegar that's fine but they are not the same things. Mirins flavor is more then anything sweet whereas rice wine vinegar is much more typical of vinegar with an low note of sweetness. Lastly I would keep the apple (when you say shredded do you mean julienned? If so please use the correct terminology, if not then you should julienne everything for better texture). For the dressing I would go with rice wine vinegar, mirin, splash of soy, and toasted sesame oil. Toss in some black and totasted sesame seeds for more color, flavor and texture. Simple is good.

Jennifer Shikes Haines

Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 3:09 p.m.

@JG - I like the cranberry idea, especially for the color, as the slaw is a bit boring in terms of color. @Leslie - Several people still like the soy sauce, so I think I'm going to have to try at least one variant that way. Nice suggestions. I'm also a big fan of Newman's Own dressings, but I wanted to make on fresh for this.


Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 11:43 a.m.

I would try tossing it with a vinaigrette made from equal parts of rice wine vinegar and lite soy sauce, with a touch of a light oil of your choice such as canola. Use sparingly, and add spices to your taste. But this might be plenty of asian flavor, without overwhelming the taste of the fresh veggies. You might also try using a bottled sesame salad dressing, such as Newman's Own (which also makes a great marinade).


Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 7:14 a.m.

I like to use dried cranberries instead of raisins. They are more colorful too.

Jennifer Shikes Haines

Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 6:06 a.m.

@Allen - I'm not a huge fan of celery seed, but it's an interesting suggestion, so I may play with it. @Goofball - I think I'm leaning towards the hot/sweet for this - I like the idea of the chili oils and upping the honey. I got a similar recommendation on my blog. I'd also thought of the sunflower/sesame combination. In terms of shredding the apples, I really wanted a traditional, grated slaw. @Vivienne - I had no idea about that round-up - I'll have to check it out, if I can find it through their archives. I thought about the onion, but can't really do that at home due to some intolerance issues with raw onions in my family. The mayo shouldn't have been in there in the first place - that was definitely a "desperation" act. I also was planning to throw out the tamari and 5 spice. I think I *do* want a little oil, but I'll think about it. Thanks so much for all the helpful suggestions!

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 5:51 a.m.

I'd definitely leave out the mayonnaise,tamari, and 5-spice powder, and I agree that the apple is unnecessary. Shana of Gastronomical Three had a comprehensive overview of kohlrabi slaw with several recipes a year ago. I simplified with Japanese seasoned rice vinegar, shredded kohlrabi and one carrot, some sweet onion, and following Shana some chopped parsley and a little mint. Some sugar. For the Asian theme, you could skip the mint and use ginger. I think the seasoned rice vinegar makes a big difference, in contrast to lemon juice. No oil.


Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 5:12 a.m.

hmm I don't know half of the ingredients in your dressing so it's hard to judge I also love the idea of apples in a salad, but why did you shred it? Small parts add some crunchyness? And why not add both sunflower seeds and sesame seeds? In the Balinese salads, there's often beans. thinking of Bali, maybe you need to replace the chinese herbs with some chili pieces and add much more honey in order to go the hot-sweet direction?

Allen Leibowitz

Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 7:44 p.m.

How about some celery seed? I'd also think about skipping the mirin.

Jennifer Shikes Haines

Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 3:02 p.m.

@Mary - I don't usually use 5 spice, either - I think it works in the hands of someone more skilled than I. I thought it might be interesting to throw the idea out here and see what happens. @Peipei - MUCH more honey - interesting! I'd thought of putting in whole grain mustard and rejected it, but seeing someone else who's thinking of it... that looks good. And the rice wine vinegar instead of the mirin. I'm definitely going to try your version. Lovely suggestions.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 2:55 p.m.

1 TBS canola oil 1 tsp toasted sesame oil 2 TBS honey 1 tsp fresh, grated ginger 2 TBS rice wine vinegar 1 TBS whole grain mustard 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 tsp ground fresh pepper

Mary Bilyeu

Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 12:44 p.m.

You know, people don't realize that cooks don't always get it on the first try, that there is lots of tinkering to do sometimes. But once an idea takes hold, it must be seen to fruition... and I like this idea of yours! I'm not personally a fan of 5-spice powder, so that might need to go; you've already hit on the ginger and the sweetness and the touch of heat that I would have recommended... hmmmm. Not sure what else to suggest -- sorry. It does sound lovely, though, and I'm surprised it's just not quite what you'd envisioned....