HREE YEARS AGO, Steven
Gedra, co-owner of The Black
Sheep, at 367 Connecticut St.,
couldn’t give kohlrabi away.
At first glance, the unassuming knobby little root vegetable doesn’t seem to
have much going for it. But in the hands
of a culinary magician like Gedra, this
cousin of the cabbage can be transformed into something else entirely.
“People absolutely love it,” says Gedra
of the poached kohlrabi currently on the
restaurant’s specials list. Last October,
the dish was part of a six-course dinner he and wife Ellen presented at the
James Beard House in New York City.
The dish starts, like many Black Sheep
offerings, with locally sourced produce.
In this case, the kohlrabi comes from
Oles Farms in Alden. Gedra and the
farm began working together in 2009,
back when he was at Bistro Europa. “We had heard their quality was
second to none, and they are amazing people to boot, so, win,” he says.
Still the question remains: why
kohlrabi? It’s fibrous, with a texture
akin to a broccoli stem. That isn’t
exactly a compelling argument for it
becoming the hero of a dish. “This
[dish] came about because I sometimes go down rabbit holes with different cultures,” Gedra explains.
The chef was on an Arabic kick at
the time, and thought the kohlrabi could be a great foil for the flavor
profile he was hoping to achieve. So,
he paired the poached kohlrabi with
dukkah, an Egyptian spice blend featuring toasted nuts and sesame seeds,
and harissa, a North African hot chili
pepper paste. Then, he finished it off
with burnt citrus and sumac yogurt,
which provided a lemony tang.
At least that’s what comprises the well-balanced Middle Eastern dish right
now. Gedra admits he likes to “play,
a lot” with his offerings, so restaurant
patrons may find a somewhat different version of the dish on the menu in
the future. But at least through deep
winter, this current iteration should
be available, as long as Mother Nature
is cooperative. Gedra suggests pairing
the kohlrabi with a dry white wine or
the Ritterguts Gose, a lactic and salty
specialty ale associated with the German city of Leipzig.
THE BLACK SHEEP
367 Connecticut Street,
884-1100 or blacksheepbuffalo.com