Outside the Box

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Expand your comfort food zone with new ingredients that will surprise your tastebuds

It’s hard to spend your time and food dollars on items you haven’t tried or that you don’t know how to store or use. Because variety is the key to long-term nutritional health, trying new things is a must. Many vegetables like bok choy, fennel and kohlrabi that come from other lands are delicious and nutritious. Many are now being locally grown and are distributed in community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes, local farmers markets and your grocery store. Learn how to recognize and use more exotic vegetables. Try it; you’ll like it … no fooling!

Orange Fennel Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Orange Fennel Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 side-dish servings

  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced and cut in wedges with the tops reserved
  • ⅓ cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups shredded romaine
  • 1 (15-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans

Place a steamer basket in a saucepan and add just enough water to cover the bottom. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the fennel, cover and reduce heat to low. Steam for 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain, cover and chill.

Meanwhile, in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the orange juice concentrate, garlic, vinegar, oil, water and pepper. Shake to emulsify and set aside.

When ready to serve, place the romaine in a serving bowl and add the fennel, oranges, onions and pecans. Toss well, and drizzle with the dressings, garnishing with the reserved fennel tops. Serve immediately.

Braised Chicken with Fennel and Carrots

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 fennel bulbs, topped, cored and sliced
  • 8 carrots, peeled, quartered and sliced lengthwise
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup chicken stock (if necessary)
  • ½ cup pitted olives (use a mixture of green and black)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

Place the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove from the pot and add the fennel and carrots. Braise for 4-5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and add the lemon juice and wine. Bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 50-55 minutes. If necessary, add a half cup of chicken stock to prevent scorching. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with the olives, parsley and capers. Serve warm.

Apple Jicama Slaw

Apple Jicama Slaw

Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 jicama, peeled and chopped or shredded
  • 1 small Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped or shredded
  • 2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 teaspoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Place the jicama and apples in a serving bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the cilantro, mayonnaise, lime juice, oil, salt and pepper. Add to the jicama mixture, and toss to evenly coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Sauteed Leeks with Herbs and Honey

Sauteed Leeks with Herbs and Honey

Yield: 4 servings

  • 12 slender leeks, trimmed (if only regular are available, cut in half or quarters after blanching)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and mashed through a sieve
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the leeks and blanch for 8 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Place on a paper towel to drain.

Place the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the leeks and shallots, cooking and stirring until golden-brown. Remove from the heat and drizzle with the vinegar and honey. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and transfer to a serving plate. Top with the egg, and garnish with the tarragon. Serve slightly warm.

Kohlrabi Cakes

Kohlrabi Cakes

Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 bulbs kohlrabi, peeled and shredded
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons dried seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream or crème fraiche
  • Dill sprigs for garnish

Place the kohlrabi on several thicknesses of paper towels, and squeeze to remove any moisture. Place in a mixing bowl, and add the green onions, eggs, bacon, garlic, breadcrumbs, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. Blend thoroughly, and form into patties. Place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set.

Place the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties, and saute until golden-brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Turn only once. Drain on paper towels, and serve with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche and a garnish of fresh dill.

Kohlrabi Fries

Yield: 4 servings

  • 4 bulbs kohlrabi (greens removed), peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the kohlrabi on lightly greased rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil, and sprinkle with the salt. Bake 35 minutes, and serve hot.

Stir-Fried Bok Choy

Stir-Fried Bok Choy

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 pound bok choy, separated, washed and trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 fresh ginger slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

Cut each bok choy stalk in half lengthwise and slice into 4-inch pieces. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the stock, oyster sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch and sugar. Set aside.

Place the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. When hot, add the ginger and stir-fry 10 seconds. Add the bok choy and garlic, and stir-fry 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk the sauce again and add to the wok. Stir-fry 1 minute longer, tossing to evenly coat the bok choy. Serve warm.

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About Author

Tammy Algood

Originally from Starkville, Miss., Tammy Algood has a Bachelor’s of Science from Mississippi State University and a Master’s from Middle Tennessee State University. She writes about food for The Tennessean and monthly for The Tennessee Magazine. Broadcast appearances include Nashville’s local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates as well as statewide on PBS. Tammy can also be seen nationally on the HGTV and DIY networks.

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