Foodie Fights: Battle Rosemary and Kohlrabi

I’ve always been a fan of Iron Chef.  It’s one of those shows that exposes the art and passion that goes into the craft of creating really good food.  I always wondered what it would be like to take the stage in Kitchen Stadium, face my opponent, discover the secret ingredient, and hear the chairman yell “Allez cuisine!”.

That day has finally come.

Well, sort of.

The folks at Foodie Fights put on an online version of Iron Chef by selecting foodies and giving them secret ingredients and a few days to put together a single course.  The challenge is to create something that will have the readers and judges clawing at their computers and iPhones to get at mouth watering recipes, descriptions, and photos.

South Bay Foodies has been honored with an invitation to compete in Foodie Fights.  I’m thrilled because this might be the closest I’ll ever get to Iron Chef.  Allez cuisine indeed!

The Secret Ingredients

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The elusive kohlrabi, in captivity on my kitchen counter.

For this battle, the Foodie Fights chairmen selected rosemary and kohlrabi.  Yeah, me too.  I was immediately familiar with the well known herb but had no clue about the other thing.  Kohlrabi?  What’s that, a spice? Fruit? Vegetable?  Fortunately there was a Wikipedia link and plenty of other online resources for this vegetable.  After getting some ideas on what this radish-cabbage-turnipy thing might taste like, I thought about ways to prepare it…then I realized I needed to find it!  After a call for help and a few frantic searches in grocery stores, I discovered the veggie at the market right across the street from where I work.  WIN!  With a bundle of the veggies in hand (and a huge rosemary bush from another store) I was all set to prepare my menu.

The Menu

<p>The finished meal: Rosemary and Orange Brined Pork Chops, Ensalda Blanca, plated with baked beans.</p>

The finished meal: Rosemary and Orange Brined Pork Chops, Ensalda Blanca, plated with baked beans.

The Foodie Fights competition calls for a single course.  That course could be anything from breakfast to dinner and everything in between.  Cooking for family and friends, though, I knew I had to make a complete “meal”, served in a single course.  My course would have to include a protein, a vegetable, and something tasty to sip on.  I decided on:

Rosemary and Orange Brined Pork Chops

Ensalada Blanca with Kohlrabi, Jicama, and White Peach with Honey Lime Dressing

Rosemary Mojito

Rosemary and Orange Brined Pork Chops

With the kohlrabi, this competition had already pushed me out of my comfort zone so I was open to trying something else that I’ve wanted to try for a while: brining.  I’ve grilled brined meats before (mostly poultry), but never made the brine myself.  Knowing that spices work well in brines along with the salt and sugars, I pulled together a recipe that would allow the rosemary to shine while keeping it in check with a bit of citrus.  Everything came together to season a pork chop that was phenomenal: moist, delicately rosemary flavored,  and playfully hinted by citrus.

Brined pork chops grilled to perfection.

Brined pork chops grilled to perfection.

Ensalada Blanca with Kohlrabi, Jicama, and White Peach

The salad ingredients standing by for prep.

The salad ingredients standing by for prep.

While the kohlrabi was new to me, I wanted to introduce it in a way that was familiar.  I enjoy making cool, refreshing salads in the summer and many of the kohlrabi recipes that I studied called for simple dishes made of kohlrabi and other fresh veggies.  After I tasted it and saw that the pale green bulb was actually white on the inside, I knew it would play well in a version of one of my favorite salads of all time, my world famous peach salad.  OK, maybe it’s not world famous, but every time I make it my hopes for leftovers are literally fruitless.

The ensalada blanca, Spanish for white salad, pairs the delicate flavor of the kohlrabi with jicama, another crisp, juicy, tuber like vegetable; and white peaches, also firm in texture but sweeter and softer than its salad mates.  I wanted the experience of eating this salad to be a range of taste and texture from one spectrum to another.  The kohlrabi, on one end, brought to the palate a vegetable taste of light broccoli and greenness but with a crisp, crunchy texture that is far from leafy.  In the middle, the Jicama provided a transition point by offering its own unique blend of both vegetable taste and sweetness.  The jicama’s juiciness and crunch were undeniable as well.  On the far end, the peaches added a welcome sweetness and softer texture.  One at a time or all together, the trio held their own or combined for a burst of flavor that changed from one side of the tongue to the other.

The dressing for this salad was a tough choice because I didn’t want to mask any one flavor of the veggies and fruits involved.  At the same time, I wanted each one to be highlighted in turn if not equally.  In the end, I varied the honey lime dressing I use on my peach salad by adding just a dash of salt.  The salt, along with the citrus from the lime, were prefect in bringing out the kohlrabi’s light flavor.

Oh, to make the salad even more interesting, I decided to make it uniform.  Usually when I make a salad, I cut the chunkier ingredients into irregular shapes; it adds to the randomness of the salad and makes it fun to eat.  For this salad, though, I used an apple corer to cut regular shapes out of each ingredient.  The randomness and variety came from eating the salad and not knowing which circle was which ingredient!  That set our mouths up for some interesting discovery as we explored the kohlrabi, exotic to us, and its pairing with two familiar flavors.  I will admit, though, cutting the circles was labor intensive.  If you follow the recipe below, feel free to cut, cube, or core any way you want to.

Ensalada Blanca

Ensalada Blanca

Rosemary Mojito

Mojitos are one of my favorite summer drinks.  I’ve always been a mixologist at home, but without a ready supply of mint, I’ve been resistant to making mojitos.  I finally broke down and bought some mint and was thrilled with the results.  Knowing that rosemary pairs well with mint in everything from lotion to lamb, I couldn’t wait to try it in my mojito!  I realized that they key would be releasing the flavor of the rosemary just enough that it complimented the mint without overpowering it.  At the same time, I thought muddling it with the mint just as the drink was being made might not give the rosemary enough room to shine.  I decided to infuse it into the homemade simple syrup I use to sweeten my mojitos; the results were tremendous!

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Rosemary simple syrup, bottled and ready to be mixed into a mojito.

I made two batches of rosemary simple syrup, what I’m calling single and double strength.  The single strength I made by simply adding the rosemary to the syrup as it cooked and letting it steep for a while before filtering it out.  It was tasty enough, but the mojitos I made didn’t have enough rosemary kick.  My taste testers (lucky folks) noticed that something was different but not enough to say, “Yes, this is a rosemary mojito”.

The double strength syrup, on the other hand, I made the same as the single strength but I let the whole mixture, rosemary branches and all, steep overnight in the refrigerator.  The resulting green syrup was the perfect addiction, I mean, addition to the mojitos!  The velvety textured, piney flavor paired perfectly with the mint.  Round two of taste testing came with a mojito that was traditional, with flavors of lime and mint, but elevated to a new level of refreshment with the boost of the rosemary syrup.

Mojito infused with rosemary simple syrup and garnished with a sprig!

Mojito infused with rosemary simple syrup and garnished with a sprig!

Facing the Judges

2009-08-09 - Battle Rosemary Kohlrabi 075Not only am I being critiqued by the judges at Foodie Fights, but also by the hungry people at home!  So after many hours in the kitchen chopping kohlrabi, peeling rosemary leaves, stirring pots, and slaving over the grill, the meal was served and the home judges made their decision.

The pork chops were a clear winner with bones, plates, and fingers all being licked clean.  Without adding any seasoning at all, the rosemary and orange brine kept the chops moist and flavorful without the need for anything more.

I thought it was the best but not everyone was sold on the salad. We did agree, though, that it was fun to eat and also exciting to try something new.  I’m glad to have learned about kohlrabi and look forward to using it in other dishes.  The adventure will continue!

As for the rosemary mojitos, those of us old enough to enjoy them were glad to savor each and every drop.  I’m going to get a mint bush to help my rosemary bush keep up with the demand!

The Recipes

Rosemary and Orange Brine (Enough for 3 lbs of Meat)

1 Cup Morton Coarse Kosher Salt
1 Cup Raw Sugar, Dark
1 Gallon Cold Water
1 Tablespoon William-Sonoma “5 Blend” Peppercorns, Whole
Juice, pulp, and Rind of 1-2 Large Oranges
10 Sprigs Rosemary, Including Leaves and Branches

  1. Over high heat, bring about one fourth of the water to a boil in a 5 quart pot.  Add the salt and stir until dissolved.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Some of the salt or sugar may remain in the pot; don’t worry about it.
  2. Turn down the heat on the pot to medium and add the orange juice, pulp, and rind.
  3. Use the end of a wooden spoon and a small bowl to muddle the rosemary springs a few at a time.  Add the sprigs to the pot.2009-08-09 - Battle Rosemary Kohlrabi 007
  4. Add the peppercorns and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from heat and allow the brine to cool to room temperature.
  6. Pour the brine into a pitcher or other container and let it chill in a refrigerator overnight.
  7. When you are ready to brine your meat, place the meat in large Ziploc bag or other container that has a seal and enough room to hold the meat and enough liquid to cover it.2009-08-09 - Battle Rosemary Kohlrabi 014
  8. Fill the bag or container until all the meat is covered.  Seal the bag/container tightly and place it in the refrigerator.  Let the meat rest in the brine, agitating it every hour or so.  The brining time will vary depending on the type, thickness, and amount of meat you are working with.  For my preparation, I let 3 lbs of half-inch thick pork chops soak for about 5 hours.
  9. After the meat has been brined, remove it from the container and discard the brine.  The meat may be covered and returned to the refrigerator or used right away.  If using immediately, pat dry and prepare as you would normally, using no salt and few seasonings if any.  For my preparation, I seared the pork chops over very hot coals, grilling each side for about 2 minutes.  Afterwards I let the chops roast via indirect heat for about 20 minutes.  Your preparation may require more or less cooking time depending on the type of meat, thickness, and cooking method.

Ensalada Blanca with Kohlrabi, Jicama, and White Peach with Honey Lime Dressing

2 Pounds each of Kohlrabi, Jicama, and White Peach, washed and dried
Juice of 2-3 Limes
About 2 Tablespoons Honey
Dash of salt

Tip:  If you’re going to use a corer to make regular shapes out of all the ingredients, peeling the Jicama and peaches may not be needed.  If you are going to dice the ingredients or cut irregular shapes, peel the Jicama.  If you want an all white salad, peel the peaches.  A potato peeler works great on firm peaches.

  1. Use a sharp knife to peel the kohlrabi and cut off the coarse top and bottom sections.  Slice the vegetable into quarter-inch thick planks.  Using an apple corer or other hole punching device, cut circles out of the planks.  Place the kohlrabi circles in a large bowl and sprinkle with a dash of salt (or more to taste).2009-08-09 - Battle Rosemary Kohlrabi 031
  2. Slice the jicama into quarter-inch thick planks.  Using an apple corer or other hole punching device, cut circles out of the planks.  Place the jicama circles in the bowl with the kohlrabi.
  3. Slice the peaches into quarter-inch thick planks, cutting around the pit.  Using an apple corer or other hole punching device, cut circles out of the planks.  Place the peach circles in the bowl with the kohlrabi and jicama.2009-08-09 - Battle Rosemary Kohlrabi 034
  4. In a small bowl, mix the lime juice and honey until blended.  Pour over the vegetables and fruit and toss to coat.
  5. Store the salad in a covered container overnight to allow the flavors to blend.  Toss thoroughly before serving.

Rosemary Simple Syrup (For the Rosemary Mojito)

1 Cup of Sugar
1 Cup of Water
5 Sprigs of Rosemary

  1. Bring the water to boil in a saucepan over high heat.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.  Remove saucepan from heat.
  2. In a bowl, muddle the rosemary leaves and gently bend or break the branches of the sprigs.  Add it to the warm saucepan and let the mixture rest until it cools to room temperature.
  3. Pour the syrup and rosemary sprigs into a tightly covered container.  Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours or longer for more intense rosemary flavor.
  4. Drain the syrup into a clean jar, straining out the leaves with a filter.  You may need to strain the syrup a few times to remove all of the leaves.2009-08-09 - Battle Rosemary Kohlrabi 041
  5. Store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Rosemary Mojito (makes one glass)

5 Mint Leaves
2 Ounces Rosemary Simple Syrup
2 Ounces Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice or about the Juice of One Lime
3 Ounces Bacardi Superior Rum
Sprite Zero, Club Soda, or Other Lemon-Lime Soda

  1. Add the mint leaves, lime juice, and simple syrup to a tall glass.  With the end of a wooden spoon, gently mash the leaves with the juice and syrup.2009-08-09 - Battle Rosemary Kohlrabi 082
  2. Add ice to the glass and then add the rum.  Stir to mix the rum with the base mixture.
  3. Top off the glass with soda.  Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and serve with a straw.

You Can Vote!

Check out all of the competitors for this round of Foodies Fights at  You can also check out each competitor via the links below:

AGA Kitchen: Arborio & Rosemary Crusted Kohlrabi Cakes
The Culinary Image: Pan Seared Opah with Kohlrabi 3 ways
Felice in the Kitchen: Cold Kohlrabi Mousse
Well Fed Man: Kohlrabi stuffed with Curry Spelt and Seasonal Vegetables


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About the Author

Michael loves grilling, rum, and has a weakness for key lime pie.

15 Responses to “Foodie Fights: Battle Rosemary and Kohlrabi”

  1. Rosemary Mojito….I had my doubts..but you pulled it off!

  2. my bad! these recipes look awesome! we have a rosemary bush at home and only use it to skewer shrimp. mojitos are next! i’m a big proponent of growing your own herbs–makes no sense to buy $2 of herbs each time you use a scant teaspoon. ugh! just go outside and clip some leaves/stems for pretty much free. woohoo!

  3. @Nicole – Oh, ye of little faith. haha! 🙂

    @Margaret – Thanks! I totally feel you on growing herbs at home. been wanting to do it for a while and this was just the push i needed. so you use the rosemary branches as skewers!? wicked! what other herbs do you have? if you see a trail of leaves leading away from your house, it might just lead to mine!

  4. Guess what you will be cooking when you come home or when I come to Cally?! Look and sounds good!! Good luck on the fight!!
    Momma Jerrie

  5. i think we have some random mint and basil somewhere in the driveway. i think the dogs like to eat them, lol. but for sure, anytime y’all need rosemary, come through. it’s that hardy bush at the front porch railing!

  6. Beautifully explained and such detail!!! good luck!

  7. @Momma Jerrie – Aw, Mom! You know I will grill up some pork chops for you anytime!

    @Margaret – If your bush looks a little low……..

    @Felice – Thanks! Same to you; Bon chance!

  8. That rosemary orange brine is the ticket. Two of our favorite things combined–herbs and citrus. Magic! Oh, but the mojito is right on time too.

  9. What an effort. Nice post, ensalada blanca is up my ally. Hope you had as much fun as I did with the Battle. Peace

  10. Truly interesting recipes and a beautiful job done on your post!
    Good luck…

  11. Michael, Sam and I have enjoyed your recipes. Your recipes are appealing to the eyes and taste delicious!!!!!! Way to go!!!!!!

  12. congrats on runner up and winner of the popular vote!! good battle!

  13. I love rosemary/I also grow my own herbs/GOOD LUCK.

  14. Michael, everything sounds and looks great! You are really “the” Chef! Man, you need to place these recipes in your very own cookbook! I would buy one!!! LOL!

    Keep up the good work in the kitchen.