Well, I’m back in Arizona. After spending the summer in some very different places, it’s almost reassuring to be back in a familiar place. It would be entirely reassuring except that it’s 103 today, and I’m supposed to think that it’s “cool”. I remember arriving here last year and thinking that it was just the absolute worst, and I think that I’m past the point of thinking it’s the absolute worst (it is, but it’s actually better than it was last year, so I feel less validated in my complaints), and I’m on to thinking the people who live around me are totally crazy. I saw a guy running when it was mid-day and 97 degrees today. I saw a woman running in pants when it was 80 degrees the other morning. I understand that it’s all relative, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand running in pants at 80 degrees. I can barely wear pants to class!
One of the most exciting things about being back, and frankly, one of the things I was most excited about over the summer (when my eating habits were often particularly suspect) was getting to start receiving local produce. One of my friends last year signed up for a CSA and really liked it, but felt like she was getting too much food. This year, we’re splitting one, and it’s a very exciting thing for me. I was an incredibly picky eater growing up, so even though my parents both went to school in northern California and are certifiable beards and Birkenstocks kinds of people, it didn’t make sense for them to do that as a kid. Now that my palate has expanded, it’s always exciting for me to eat more locally.
The thing about it, though, is that it’s a pretty weird concept to understand what local food means when you live in the desert. It’s weird in part because it’s hard to imagine growing veg here, and it’s pretty weird to understand the seasonality of things. When I lived in Washington and had access to a regular farmer’s market, not only did the seasons make sense, it was easy to figure out what to eat and when. Here, it’s not always clear. Like – when does a person grow lettuce successfully in Phoenix?! I have no idea! Unfortunately, the CSA I’ve signed up for isn’t exactly local. The farm is out in Willcox (about 195 miles from Phoenix), where they have slightly more moderate weather. All the same, I still feel great knowing that I’m supporting a local business, and that my produce is coming from the state I live in. It’s a start, at least.
So, knowing all this: In an effort to make sure that I’m holding myself accountable to eat all the tasty produce I get each week, and as a way of documenting what’s available to me at different seasons, you’ll start to see me writing posts about what I’m receiving in my CSA box each week. I wasn’t as on top of it last week, so I’m combining this week and last week into one (which is good, because that’s basically what happened when I actually settled down to make something). I’ll also be telling you some information about the produce (which is the result of my own Googling, rather than some amazing and arcane source of knowledge, I assure you) that I’m featuring each week.
Last week and this week I received a lot of kohlrabi (I also received turnips this week!). I – honestly, I’d never even seen kohlrabi, and I frankly had absolutely no idea what to do with it. I came across a couple of ideas on other food blogs, but in the spirit of keeping it simple, I made kohlrabi and turnip chips! I love the fancy root vegetable chips you can get at health food stores, and I’ve been meaning to make beet chips forever. I figured this was a good way to start out, and see how it goes. Kohlrabi, in my opinion, is slightly spicy or tangy. I saw other folks mention that it was similar to jicama, and I would definitely agree with that. It has the same tangy quality about it, and it’s quite delicious! As you’ll no doubt realize when you cook it, it’s related to cabbage – definitely be prepared for that cooked cabbage smell to permeate your house for a day or so, especially if you, like me, feel that it is still too warm to open your windows. You can use the bulb (as you will for the chips, and for many other recipes) as well as the leaves, which are sometimes used in salads as either a complement to or a replacement for collards and kale. I can definitely imagine eating the bulb raw, as well as using it (and the turnips) later in the year in some sort of delicious roasted root vegetable dish (or mash!). After looking all of this up, I got started slicing and dicing to make these delicious chips. Both salty and tangy, they make an amazing snack after school!
Kohlrabi and Turnip Chips (from Martha Stewart)
2 small and 2 large kohlrabi bulbs, stems removed
2 medium sized, tender turnip bulbs
4-8 tbsp olive oil
kosher sea salt
Preheat oven to 300 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Thinly slice (1/8″) kohlrabi and turnip bulbs, either with a sharp knife or a mandolin. Toss with olive oil at your discretion (I would err closer to less oil, as opposed to more, but it’s certainly at your discretion), and sprinkle with sea salt. Place on baking sheets in a thin layer* and place in the oven. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until crisp**, rotating pans as necessary and tossing chips to ensure even cooking. Allow to cool on a plate lined with a paper towel, and store in an airtight container once cooled. Repeat as necessary until all chips are cooked.***
*I originally baked this with no overlaps between individual slices, but ultimately that didn’t seem to make a difference. A long as your layers are relatively thin and you’re moving the chips around in the baking process, it should be okay.
**I ended up cooking mine closer to an hour and a half, if I had to guess. I’ve seen recipes where the cooking temperature is higher, so if you’re in a hurry, you might want to try cooking them closer to 375 F, and just keeping a very close eye to make sure they don’t burn. As long as you have the time, however, I would stick with the lower cooking time.
***I did at least four pans of these. Again, this will vary depending on how thickly you layer the individual slices, and how big your vegetables are, but with thin layers, I would prepare to either store extra fresh slices in the refrigerator, or plan for four pans (or two iterations) of each.