What does that taste like? Foods the cashier might be unfamiliar with.

I thought I’d dedicate a post to foods that might not be familiar to some people in my home country of the United States, but are commonly used in some countries outside of the US. There are also some foods available in my local stores, that even I’ve yet to try, mostly because I’m unsure how to use them.

My husband is Czech, so he’s introduced me to a number of new ingredients for recipes. I’m lucky that most of them are available in my grocery stores, especially the biggest one near me. If not, we have been able to order them online or find them in ethnic grocery shops, like a local Polish grocery. Sometimes in the grocery store the cashier looks at the item quizzically and asks “What is that?” I asked that question once myself. To keep the list from being too long, I’m focusing on foods my Czech husband introduced me to. Here are some of them:

Kohlrabi

kohlrabiAlso known as German turnip or turnip cabbage, kohlrabi is a vegetable whose origin of nature is the same as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts. The taste and texture is similar to a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter. Generally, the skin and stem greens are peeled off before eating the bulb. Kohlrabi tastes great raw as a snack plain or with a veggie dip, or in salads or slaws. Cooked, kohlrabi is great prepared like rutabaga, cubed then cooked and served with butter, or chopped or sliced and cooked in soups or casseroles. Its leaves can be cooked and served like collard greens or kale. My favorite way to use kohlrabi (other than as a raw snack) is to make Scalloped Kohlrabi and Potatoes. I add a little grated Gruyere cheese to the top half-way through baking to make it “au gratin”. The flavor combination is delicious! This vegetable is usually located near carrots and parsnips in my grocery store.

Celery Root

celeriacAlso known as celeriac, turnip-rooted celery, or knob celery, celery root is a variety of celery cultivated just for the roots. In my husband’s country of Czech Republic, they generally do not eat the long green crunchy stalks that people in the US are most familiar with. The celery root has a similar, but even stronger flavor than the common celery stalks in the US. To prepare celery root, the stem and outer gnarly skin is peeled off with a paring knife. The peeled root can be eaten raw, roasted, stewed, blanched, or mashed. Popular ways to eat celery root in Czech Republic are small diced and cooked and added to potato salad, or in soups or casseroles. The leaves and stems are edible and flavorsome, and are often used as garnishes.  My favorite recipes using this vegetable are Celery and Celeriac Soup (the celery root adds thickness), Bohemian Mushroom Soup, and Bohemian Potato Salad. This vegetable is usually located near carrots and parsnips in my grocery store. 

Lovage

lovageLovage (Levisticum officinale) is a tall perennial herbaceous plant with a flavor somewhere between parsley and celery, but a bit stronger. Leaves, especially the younger ones, are great in salads, soups, or broth seasonings, chopped. Roots can be eaten as a vegetable, used to flavor soups (even after drying), or grated in salads. Seeds can be used as spices, and are similar in taste to fennel. Stalks can sometimes also be used chopped in soups, especially in recipes like Lovage and Potato Soup. This herb is not available in my local grocery stores (fresh or dried), but can be purchased fresh at some garden centers in their herb sections or dried in some ethnic grocery shops (ask the clerk), like my local Polish grocery. My husband loves lovage in soups and stews, and even chopped fine in cream cheese for a spread.

Farmer’s cheese

Farmer’s cheese is an unripened pressed cottage cheese. It looks a little bit like ricotta cheese, but has a slightly more acidic taste, though not unpleasantly. Farmer’s cheese is sold in some US stores either like a pot cheese or in a similar form as a slightly harder goat cheese, but these are not the same products. Popular dishes made with farmer’s cheese include blintzes, pierogis, dumplings, fillings for sweet rolls, or spreads with herbs or other flavorings. Also popular in Czech Republic is to top egg noodles with grated farmer’s cheese, butter and poppy seeds. I have included even more details on farmer cheese in my post for Strawberry Dumplings. Farmer’s cheese is usually located in the dairy section of the grocery store, near cottage cheese and/or ricotta cheese.

 Kefir (or Kephir)

kefirAlso known as milk kefir or bulgaros, kefir is a fermented milk drink prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep milk with kefir grains. The fermentation of its lactose yields a sour, mildly carbonated, and slightly alcoholic beverage (very very little) with a consistency and taste similar to yogurt. Its appearance may remind some people of buttermilk. Unlike buttermilk, kefir is generally lactose free and more nutritious. Its taste will be slightly different than buttermilk. Though mostly consumed as a beverage, kefir can be used in making sour dough bread and some other recipes calling for buttermilk. Kefir is one of the main ingredients in the cold soup borscht in Lithuania and Poland. It can also be used in place of milk on cereal, granola, or in milkshakes. Some stores sell kefir in fruit flavors. This product is usually found in the dairy section of the grocery store.

If you know of any other unique foods in the US not mentioned above (or from anywhere in the world) that would be interesting for us to learn about, please do describe them, and how you use them. I’m specifically interested in flavorful foods that add a unique taste to a recipe or eaten on their own.Save

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26 thoughts on “What does that taste like? Foods the cashier might be unfamiliar with.

  1. Iggy September 15, 2017 / 7:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I learned quite a bit. I’ve seen Kohlrabi at the store, but I didn’t know that is what it was. And by the way, I LOVE Kefir. I usually get peach or raspberry flavored.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 15, 2017 / 9:05 pm

      Hi Iggy. I’ve never tried the flavored Kefir. Only the plain, because that’s the only kind hubby likes. I should try a flavored some day.

      Kohlrabi is so wonderful! Really, it is such a nice snack eaten just raw (yummier than raw carrots and celery, in my opinion), but cooked is great, too. I had never had any of the items in my post until I met my hubby. I’m lucky most are at my store. Lovage isn’t, but we found it at the garden center and it has come up every year for at least 10 years. It’s unstoppable!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Iggy September 17, 2017 / 12:37 pm

        I like trying new things. I started getting brave when my husband was serious about the Paleo diet. He no longer follows that, but I still like to grab a new veggie that I see at the store, and then I google recipes for them. I know they are not a rare item, but I LOVE leeks! They are great in soups or stews. And I also love cooking with shallots! They seem to only be available in my store every once in awhile, so I grab them when I see them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight September 17, 2017 / 1:10 pm

        My husband and I love leeks, too. They taste great prepared in so many ways, including on the grill.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Karin, theaustriandish September 15, 2017 / 7:38 pm

    Thank you for the post. I love the smell of lovage in a garden. It is so intense and so sweet. And there is nothing better than fresh kohlrabi with a bit of herbal salt – so tasty and so healthy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 15, 2017 / 9:08 pm

      Thanks for the seasoning tip for the kohlrabi! I just responded to another comment raving about how wonderful it is raw as a snack.

      I imagine if you were/are from Austria that you know most or all of the items I listed. My husband is CRAZY about lovage. It is his favorite herb, and a nickname he calls me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Karin, theaustriandish September 18, 2017 / 8:53 pm

        I thought about unique food you might not know in the US, but I must admit I’m not familiar with supermarkets there. So I wondered if chickpeas and hummus are widely spread? I love both of them, because they are tasty and healthy. And hummus goes perfect with kohlrabi 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight September 18, 2017 / 9:08 pm

        Oh yes! A lot of people in the U.S. eat chickpeas and hummus. I like making salads with chickpeas, and I know it’s very common in Indian cuisine. As for hummus, there are a number of people of Jewish and Middle Eastern background in my area, but I think it’s even common in areas without.

        Great suggestion combining the kohlrabi and hummus!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Karin, theaustriandish September 18, 2017 / 9:25 pm

        Oh, that’s interesting! Up until 10 years ago you didn’t get hummus in Austrian supermarkets. They only sold in in Turkish supermarkets and health food shops. But now it’s quite popular and you get a wide variety.
        I’ll think of other unique food 🙂 By the way I was totally surprised that kohlrabi is not well known. I cultivate them on my balcony…

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight September 18, 2017 / 9:31 pm

        I wish I had more room to grow veggies. You must really love them to grow them on your balcony! I only have flowers on my deck, and a small herb garden, but my herb garden does include lovage, which as I wrote is quite rare in the U.S.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Karin, theaustriandish September 18, 2017 / 9:51 pm

        Well, I love to see them grow. And they don’t take too much space, because the are in flowerpots. I also had a herb garden, but my oregano was too dominant and overgrew all other herbs. So I have an oregano garden now 🙂
        And I’m still surprised that lovage is so unique in the U.S. whereas it is a very common herb especially for soups…

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight September 18, 2017 / 9:56 pm

        My husband wants me to put lovage in almost everything. He’s crazy for it!

        Mint seems to take over my herb garden, and sometimes the lovage looks more like a tree. If I don’t cut it back it can get as tall as my husband.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Melissa A. September 16, 2017 / 6:31 am

    I feel the need to mention that in the photo of Farmer’s cheese, I have those exact same canisters seen in the background. It was one of those “Hey!” moments 🙂 Out of all the food listed here, the kohlrabi is one I’m definitely interested in trying. I like eating raw veggies with dip, and it sounds like it has a good flavor. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 16, 2017 / 12:50 pm

      I’ll have to take a closer look at the canisters.

      Kohlrabi is my favorite veggie to eat raw. I hope you do try it. It’s very nicely crisp and crunchy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. adkinsdomain September 17, 2017 / 1:17 am

    Wow! I have never tried any of these. Actually, I have never had polish food at all. Is the farmers cheese eaten raw also or is it always in something? I really enjoyed this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 17, 2017 / 5:57 am

      Hi adkinsdomain. I hope you will give a couple of the foods a try. I think they are common in many countries in Europe.

      Farmer’s cheese can be eaten cold by itself.

      Most all of the recipes I linked to in my post are Czech, but some are common in Poland, too. The ones posted in Taste of Home are my mother-in-law’s.

      Liked by 1 person

      • adkinsdomain September 17, 2017 / 1:23 pm

        I would love to! I live in Texas. I’ll have to look around and see if there is a Czech or polish grocery store somewhere.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight September 17, 2017 / 1:35 pm

        It’s possible that the kohlrabi, celery root, and maybe farmer’s cheese and/or kefir could be available in one of your larger supermarkets. Do you have a Whole Foods market anywhere near you? That might be a good bet.

        Polish groceries tend to be much much more common than Czech/Slovak markets, but it depends. I think regular grocery stores do cater a bit to local ethnic populations. If you can find a Polish or Czech/Slovak market, they’re fun to visit.

        Liked by 1 person

      • adkinsdomain September 17, 2017 / 1:38 pm

        I do have a Whole Foods! I will look there for sure! But I agree, it might be more fun to find an actual authentic market 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight September 17, 2017 / 3:23 pm

        I hope you do find one, but note that my local Polish market doesn’t sell fresh produce like Asian markets, but the do have frozen and refrigerated goods, including farmer’s cheese. There are some yummy things there like homemade kielbasa, blintzes, frozen pierogi and fruit dumplings.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Vanessa Gregoria September 17, 2017 / 3:02 am

    I’ve never seen most of theses foods on the store. Wish I tried them when I visited Poland. I’ll have to find a Polish restaurant asap. Thanks for sharing 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 17, 2017 / 6:03 am

      I hope you can find some of these foods, if you wish to try them. It might be that my Czech husband and I are lucky to have them in our stores because we live in NJ, a real melting pot.

      Like

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