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"Ugly" Winter Veggies and Where to Eat Them in NYC

These not-so-pretty ingredients make for beautiful dishes
December 16, 2016
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by Georgia Kral

Some winter vegetables may not be the prettiest-looking ingredients (in raw form) but around town, chefs are thinking of creative ways to bring out their inner beauty. 

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi, in all its glory (Flickr/AnjoSonso)

What is it?

Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family and tastes a bit like the stem on a head of broccoli or a type of turnip. Eaten raw, it has a satisfying snap. Both the bulb and the leaves of the kohlrabi are edible, though most preparations feature only the bulb.

Where to get it:

Roasted chicken and kohlrabi "flower" at SUNDAY in Brooklyn 
At this new Williamsburg hot spot, kohlrabi is shaved into tendrils and turned into a beautiful edible flower. It's served alongside roasted chicken and autumn olives (pictured below).

348 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-222-6722

SUNDAY in Brooklyn's kohlrabi "flower" is Instagram ready. (Photo by Melissa Hom)

Fung Tu’s kohlrabi salad at Nom Wah Nolita
​At the fast-casual outpost of the classic Chinatown dim sum spot Nom Wah Tea Parlor, kohlrabi is the star of a sesame peanut salad. In a partnership with chef Jonathan Wu of Fung Tu, this dish of kohlrabi "pasta" showcases the unique texture of the veggie.

10 Kenmare Street; 646-478-8242

BBQ kohlrabi at Freek’s Mill
Located on a quiet corner in Gowanus, Freek's Mill got early rave reviews for its unique wine program and creative spin on American cooking. One dish that has been heralded for its cleverness is the BBQ kohlrabi with grits and greens. Why not let a hearty vegetable stand in for meat?

285 Nevins Street, Brooklyn; 718-852-3000

Wood-grilled broccoli, orange and kohlrabi at ​Loring Place
Chef Dan Kluger's long-awaited restaurant finally opened this week, and go figure, kohlrabi is on the veggie-heavy menu. Wood-grilled broccoli is accompanied by orange, kohlrabi and topped with pistachio-mint dressing.

21 W. 8th Street; 212-388-1831

Salsify


Yes, salsify is edible. (Flickr/MartinLehnberg)

What is it?
A member of the dandelion family, salsify is a root that looks a bit like a parsnip but is darker in color — but only on the outside! The interior flesh is nearly white. Salsify, which has a vegetal, artichokelike flavor, can be treated like any root vegetable; just don't forget to peel first. The leaves are also edible.

Where to get it:

Beef heart and salsify shavings at Agern
Beef heart is served with salsify, fresh dill and elderberry in this dish (pictured below) from Claus Meyer’s Grand Central Terminal restaurant. Sample it on the $165 Land & Sea tasting menu.

89 E. 42nd Street; 646-568-4018

Agern's salsify dish. Image via Agern

Dry-aged duck at Virginia’s
At this East Village neighborhood restaurant, dry-aged duck is served with poached pear, salsify and Marcona almonds. 

647 E. 11th Street; 212-658-0182

Celeriac (celery root)

Gnarly edible roots, like celeriac, are hot this winter. (Flickr/PearlPirie)

What is it?
Celery and celery root are NOT the same thing, but they are the same plant. The difference is cultivation: Celeriac is grown for its root and celery is grown for the stalks. The flavor of celeriac is like celery (surprise!) but has a more pronounced flavor. 

Where to get it:

Fennel and celeriac salad at King
At the elegant West Village French-Mediterranean restaurant, the menu changes everyday. One dish that has a semi-permanent spot on the list, though, is the Florence fennel and shaved celeriac salad with lentils and herbs. It's earthy and floral at the same time. 

18 King Street; 917-825-1618

Salmon and potato, celeriac, leek gratin at BKW by Brooklyn Winery
At this new Crown Heights farm-to-table restaurant from the Brooklyn Winery, the pan-roasted salmon is accompanied by carrot salad and a potato, celeriac and leek gratin (pictured below).

747 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-399-1700

BKW by Brooklyn Winery turns celery root into an impressive gratin. 

Celeri rémoulade at Le Coucou
Daniel Rose's hit Le Coucou is serving the classic dish celeri rémoulade at Stephen Starr's impossible-to-get-into Downtown French restaurant. Here it's served with apple, smoked salmon and walnuts and is earthy and textural. 

138 Lafayette Street; 212-271-4252

Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke)

These little knobby roots are reminiscent of ginger but are certainly not ginger. (Flickr/Jacqueline)

What is it?
First off, it's not an artichoke at all. It's actually the root of a type of sunflower! The sunchoke looks a little like a gnarled piece of ginger but has an earthy, nutty flavor. 

Where to get it:

Sunchoke soup with crispy skins at N’eat
At this just-opened, New Nordic restaurant, the menu is studded with seasonal dishes including the sunchoke two-ways soup that comes studded with crispy sunchoke skins and apples.

58 Second Avenue; 917-892-6350

Sunchokes à la barigoule at Le Coq Rico
This restaurant, known for its focus on fowl of all sort, also makes a variation on the classic French dish artichokes à la barigoule — braised in aromatics and wine — but with sunchokes standing in. At Le Coq the chokes are served with sesame seeds and sautéed, confit gizzards (pictured below).

30 E. 20th Street; 212-267-7426

At Le Coq Rico, sunchokes are substituted into the classic French dish artichokes à la barigoule.

Crispy sunchokes with stracciatella at Roberta’s
The menu at Roberta's is always changing but Jerusalem artichokes are in season so perhaps this dish, eaten just one week ago, will appear again. The chefs paired fried sunchokes with housemade stracciatella, yuzu and turmeric.  

261 Moore Street, Brooklyn; 718-417-1118

Rutabaga

(Flickr/TimSackton)

What is it?
This root vegetable tastes like a cross between parsnips, butternut squash and turnips. It's smooth and creamy but with a peppery finish. It's also the least ugly of all the vegetables on this list. Fun fact: A rutabaga is known as a "swede" in England, Wales, Australia and New Zealand. They make a great substitute for potatoes.

Where to get it:

Rutabaga and raclette tart at Flora Bar
The menu at Ignacio Mattos' and Thomas Carter's newest restaurant on the UES inside the Met Breuer features a showstopping rutabaga tart that is as much a work of art (both in appearance and taste) as many of the works in the museum itself.

945 Madison Avenue; 646-558-5383

Truffles are shaved atop this "pasta" dish at Olmsted. (Photo by Evan Sung)

Rutabaga "tagliatelle" at Olmsted
Chef Greg Baxtrom turns rutabaga into tagliatelle-shaped ribbons for this unique spin on a "pasta" dish. It's topped with Burgundy black truffles, brown butter and Parmesan (pictured above). 

659 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-552-2610

dan kluger
celery root
claus meyer
daniel rose
sunchoke
jerusalem artichoke
celeriac
rutabaga
kohlrabi
salsify