Celery root aka celeriac, that gnarly gritty bulbous vegetable. Celery root is rather intimidating to look at, but inside is an ivory root vegetable that’s a savory treat. As the name implies, celery root and celery are related. They are two different forms of celery. In the case of celery root, its variety has been developed for the edible root. The stalks and leaves are edible too, chock full of celery flavor, though typically the stalks are spindly, not substantial, the way a head of celery grows.
From March through November, I work as a volunteer at Lexington Community Farm on Thursday mornings. My tasks are varied, focused in the greenhouse during the winter months, moving to the fields as the season unfolds. Last week, I helped bag up vegetables for the farm’s post-season bulk fall vegetable sale. I was productive, bagging up 460 pounds of carrots (in 10 pound bags), 45 pounds of garlic (in 1 pound bags), and 55 pounds of celery root (in 5 pound bags) and a few more things that I can’t remember.
When I left, one of the farmers offered me a bucket of celery root that had been harvested the previous week so wasn’t up to snuff for selling in the stand. I’m not sure whether I knew this week’s recipe selection for Cook the Book Fridays at the time, but I happily accepted.
Celery root soup with horseradish cream and ham chips provides a perfect way to make a dent in my supply of celery root. The soup itself couldn’t be easier. Diced (and peeled!) celery root is added to sautéed leeks along with water, thyme sprigs, a bay leaf and salt and simmered until the celery root is tender. After removing the bay leaf and thyme stems, the mixture is pureed in the blender. Voilà!
The result is a smooth ivory bowl of soup, which on its own is somewhat bland. However, it serves as a willing palette for garnishes. And the garnishes supplied in this recipe are outstanding.
First, we have the ham chips which are a giant step up from bacon bits. I used thin slices of prosciutto, baked until leathery, about 10 minutes. They crisped up a bit more as they cooled. I coarsely chopped them.
Next, we have horseradish cream. I went with the crème fraîche option. The recipe instructs you to beat the crème fraiche with a whisk until it becomes stiff. Because the crème fraiche has a lot of body to begin with, I was highly skeptical that whisking it would do anything. In fact, after whisking for a few minutes, it didn’t noticeably thicken. I kept at it, and, all of a sudden had soft peaks, similar to whipped cream. Interesting. To finish it off, horseradish, salt and lemon juice are added for a piquant topping.
I really enjoyed this one. As I said, I found the “naked” soup boring, but with a dollop of horseradish cream and a sprinkle of ham chips, it is truly wonderful.
To work through the rest of my celery root, I plan to try David Lebovitz’s Céleri Rémoulade recipe and this celery root gratin. Any other suggestions from fellow celery root fans?
Lest I forget, the highlight of my week last week wasn’t packing vegetables (though Thursday morning at the farm is typically my favorite part of the week). The best part was a quick visit from my blogging friend Mary of Lights On Bright No Brakes. During her 30-hour stop in Boston, we cooked dinner together and spent the good part of a day perusing the galleries at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. We even snuck in coffee and pastries with our old pal Tricia (daughter of Ro from Chez Nana) from French Fridays who was also in town. Here’s Mary and me in the Takashi Murakami exhibit. We loved his vibrant colors and sense of fun.
In a book filled with many winners, David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen seldom disappoints. Working my way through the entire book with my friends from Cook the Book Fridays is a mostly delicious adventure. Each recipe offers a new technique, a new flavor combination, or a new twist on an old favorite. There’s something new to learn with every challenge.
The name of this week’s recipe Buckwheat Rolls with Seaweed Butter is tantalizingly exotic. The buckwheat galettes provide a foundation of French-ness for an Asian compound butter made with seaweed sheets, aka nori.
It isn’t a difficult recipe. Mixing the batter for the galettes (or savory crêpes) needs no special equipment beyond a bowl and a whisk.
Cooking the galettes is a bit tricky, but I was more successful this time than when we made the buckwheat crêpes with ham, cheese, and egg last year. For the seaweed butter, I used some Trader Joe’s roasted seaweed snacks I had on-hand. They toast up easily with a few waves over a gas flame before being mashed into softened butter.
The most difficult part was spreading the butter onto the galettes before rolling them in preparation for a final crisping in the pan. Once crisped on both sides, the rolls are sliced into bite-sized pieces for nibbling.
The verdict: Ick! This was a flop. Neither Howard or I liked these at all. They had so much potential, but despite the interesting list of ingredients, they were rather tasteless. We didn’t even finish them. Boo! On the positive side, this is only the second recipe we’ve made from this book that I consider to be a failure (the other one was Panisse Puffs). And so, I look forward to the next recipe the group takes on.
I’ll bet that my Cook the Book Fridays friends enjoyed this more than we did, so you can check out their links here.