Celery Root Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Celeriac, that unlovely step-sister of the root vegetable family, has not been made more popular in the US celeriac 2merely by bestowing upon her a Downtown Abbey-esque name. In fact, the French term for celery root has been around – even on this side of the pond – well before the advent of television itself. But somehow pragmatic Americans seem to favor the truth of the matter – the baseball-sized , brownish, pock-marked lumps that you find on produce shelves inevitably are labeled just what they are: Celery root. Nomenclature aside, the burgeoning foodie market’s natural curiosity is what’s driving better supermarkets to stock this gnarly winter vegetable.celeriac 4

Cut it open and you get creamy flesh that looks like a turnip and emits the most delectable scent of artichoke, carrot and, yes, celery, which, after all, is what the root nurtures above ground as it grows. Not your conventional celery that bunches and blanches, producing crispy, cucumber-textured stalks that we use in so many ways. Rather, the rougher country cousin of that staple, strong and coarse enough to stay out of most soups and chicken salad concoctions in favor of the compost pile – or feeding the pigs or chickens as we used to do back in the day when Adrienne was raising such in rural Virginia.

And those who do experiment with celery root discover a new favorite – a creamy winter soup using a couple of the bulbous tubers along with its green counterpart and a fat onion, simmered in stock and then pureed with the dairy – or non – of your choice, makes a winter night a joy to weather. Oven-roasting along with whatever strikes your fancy at that moment – or by itself – brings out celeriac’s innate sweetness (yes, the humble vegetable aims to please), and celeriac 5mashed with a handful of potatoes brings a whole new meaning to our beloved “mash,” side dish of choice to elegant winter roasts and rich stews.

But here we are preparing it virginally – the celery root is raw, dressed in an unusual vinaigrette using preserved lemons, pickled in salt for a number of weeks, resulting a smoky, nutty, undefinable “umami” – that elusive fifth estate of the palate which, when experienced, brings it all home in a “Ta daah!” moment. But it doesn’t end there – the preserved lemon (widely available in international grocery stores and increasingly in supermarkets, but if you can’t find it check out this link) is combined with lemon juice, creme fraiche for a swooning creaminess and poppy seeds for subtle texture and beauty, plus walnuts for crunch. The dish is garnished with pomegranate arils for eye candy as much as the lovely little pop of sweetness in the mouth.

So go for it – discover a whole new winter salad. (Found in The Washington Post, originally from the book “A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories,” and adapted here by Adrienne for a demos at Brookside Gardens and the US Botanic Garden January 2015.)

celery root saladCelery Root Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Make ahead: You can prep all your salad ingredients in advance; store the prepped celery root in a bowl or tub of chilled water with a dash of white vinegar. This will prevent discoloration.

Peel of 1 preserved lemon cut into julienne (very thin strips)
Scant 1 C crème fraîche
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 t minced shallot
1 T poppy seeds
1 C extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

2 baseball-size celeriac, peeled (1-2 pounds total)
1 C walnut halves, toasted
1 C picked celery leaves (from the heart of 1 bunch celery)
½ C celery stalk, sliced very thin on the diagonal (about 2 stalks)
2 t poppy seeds
¾ C fresh pomegranate seeds (arils)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Flaked sea salt, such as Maldon

For the vinaigrette: Combine the preserved lemon peel, crème fraîche, lemon juice, shallot and poppy seeds in a food processor; pulse until the solids are finely chopped. With the motor running, gradually add the oil to form a creamy emulsion.

For the salad: Use a mandolin or sharp knife to shave the celeriac into wide, 1/8-inch-thick slices; Put them in a large bowl, along with the sliced celery root. Toss with enough vinaigrette to coat. Add about three-quarters of the walnuts, crushing some of them with your fingers as you work them in.

Transfer the mixture to a large platter. Garnish with the celery leaves, poppy seeds and pomegranate seeds and remaining walnuts. Serve at room temperature, drizzled with oil and garnished with the flaked salt.


Celery Squared Soup

celery soup

This soup has become such a fall ritual in our household that I begin craving it as soon as the garden tomato season is over – typically mid to late October.  The fresh, green taste of celeriac – a variety of celery grown primarily for the large, gnarly root secreted beneath a bushy growth of fibrous (but perfectly edible) stalks – here is underscored by the sharper flavor from conventional green celery. The combination seems to particularly bring out the abundance of natural sugars in the celery root. Some celeriac recipes call for apples or potatoes or leeks.  Play with it if you will, but for my taste, I stick to the basics. Read More


Rutabaga Bisque with Smoked Paprika

rutabaga290

Consider the much overlooked rutabaga: It delivers potassium and fiber at the same rate as the potato, but with nearly twice the vitamin C and half the carbs.  Folks often don’t know what to do with the beefy root vegetable with the gentle apricot-hued flesh. The rutabaga’s slight turnip tang belies its high sugar content, which renders it sweet on the tongue.  Use it as you would a potato and rejoice in the carbs you are saving. This soup pairs the sweetness of rutabaga with the rich flavor of smoked paprika, an inspired match that intensifies the root’s color and lifts the flavor unto the sublime. Adapted with gratitude from Chow. Read More


New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

This is a decidedly grown-up version of red beans and rice – spicy and flavorful.  For a less spicy version, use ham or kielbasa instead of the more authentic andouille.  Like most bean dishes, this one tastes best if you cook up your own beans.  The cooking time of dried beans varies widely, depending on how old the beans are and the variety.  Anasazi beans cook quickly and do not require soaking beforehand.  Red beans are slower and benefit from an overnight soak in cold water prior to cooking. This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking. Serves six.

1 Tbs. olive oil
6 oz. fully cooked andouille or other spicy smoked sausage, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 medium celery stalks with leaves, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced
1 medium green or yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 dried bay leaf
1 tsp. fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 C cooked Anasazi or red beans (see below)
Bean cooking liquid or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 cups rice of your choice
Hot pepper sauce, for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring often, until browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the celery, scallions, bell pepper, onion, the bay leaf, thyme, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the cooked beans and ½ C liquid, reserving more as needed. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer very gently 15 minutes to meld flavors, adding liquid as necessary to keep beans moist but not soupy.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a heavy-duty 3-quart saucepan over high heat. Add the rice and 1-1/2 tsp. salt, stir once, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes

Discard the bay leaf from the beans, stir in the parsley, and season to taste with salt and hot pepper sauce. Serve the beans over the rice, with the hot pepper sauce and pickled jalapeños with their liquid on the side.

COOKING THE BEANS: You may use canned beans, drain but do not rinse.  Two cans will yield slightly less than four coups. Cooked dried beans produce better flavor and you can control the tenderness of the beans better. One pound will yield eight cups of cooked beans. To cook anasazi beans, simply place dried beans in water to cover, by about ½ inch; add three garlic cloves, ½ t each salt and pepper. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook approximately 60 minutes until beans are soft but not mushy.  Let them cool in the cooking liquid. Refrigerate until ready to use.