The best creativity is inspired by limitation. In high summer it is easy to turn to the garden for ideas. The produce speaks up and tells you exactly what to do with it. In October, as the garden ends, there are but a few spartan leaves left to eat. It seems all the more important to use what is left with intention.
Clearing the garden, I couldn’t help but admire the hardy kohlrabi leaves that had survived army worms, frost and snow. They are the centre piece of the garden bed they shared with the zucchini plants, now long gone. Green and purple leaves atop spindly stems that didn’t have time to swell and produce a bulb. I wondered what I might do with them, fighting the impulse to simply pull them up and throw them on the compost pile. Surely there was a meal in them yet.
It occurred to me the broad leaves would work well to hold a flavourful stuffing. The recipe below is inspired by Eastern European cabbage rolls, French stuffed cabbages, and grape leave Dolmades. My variation is stuffed with ground chicken, dried mushrooms and wild rice, and served with a gravy of winter squash.
Kohlrabi Leaves Stuffed with Ground Chicken, Mushrooms and Wild Rice
Kohlrabi is becoming easier to find in the grocery store, but they are never sold with their leaves on, making this a dish only for gardeners or for those who frequent a farmer’s market.
- Pick and wash two dozen kohlrabi leaves. Trim the tough stem as you would with cabbage to allow the leaves to roll better. Scald the leaves by dropping them into a pot of recently boiled water for a minute or so.
- Boil one cup of wild rice and let cool.
- Drop a handful of dried porcini into a bowl and pour over a cup of boiling water. Let rest a while.
- Fry a chopped onion, and a bit of garlic, until the onion is translucent. Add two handfuls of chopped mushrooms such as Shiitake, as well as the rehydrated dried mushrooms, reserving the mushroom mixture for later. Add to the pan chopped rosemary and thyme, and season well. Let cool.
- Add the rice and onion mixture to half a pound of ground chicken or pork. Mix well.
Stuff 20 or so leaves, rolling and tucking and trimming any excess kohlrabi leaf. Then nestle into a heavy bottomed shallow pan. Pour enough chicken stock over to come half way up the kohlrabi rolls. Layer the remaining leaves on top to protect the rolls and cover with a lid. Bake at 350 F for about an hour or so.
Meanwhile make the gravy.
Winter Squash Gravy
This is easiest to make when you have left over roasted squash and some stock around.
Halve and de-seed a squash (I grow Burgess Buttercup). Slice into wedges and pile into a large pot with a lid. Pour over 1/4 cup of water, season well and drop over a few knobs of butter and roast for about an hour at 350 F.
Once soft, leave to cool enough to allow you to scoop out the flesh from its skin and measure one cup of squash into two cups of simmering stock. Pour in the remaining mushroom liquid from the recipe above, taking care to hold back any grit or debris. Grate in a thumb sized piece of ginger and season well. Simmer 20 minutes with a bay leaf.
Remove bay leaf and puree well to make a smooth silky sauce. Add a bit more stock or water if necessary.
To serve, pour a ladle full of the squash puree in the bottom of a deep dish (or shallow bowl) and place the Kohlrabi rolls on top.
Deeply flavoured, comforting and cheap. A meal emerged where only garden scraps existed.