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December: Rabbit, Rabbit {CtBF}

Wow!  It’s December already?  My mother always told us that the first words out of your mouth on the first of every month should be “Rabbit, rabbit” to bring you luck, so there it is.

This week’s choice for Cook the Book Fridays is Celeriac (aka Celery Root) again!  I enjoyed the Celery Root Soup we made in November, and this celery root gratin did not disappoint.  Fortunately, I still have a few bulbs left from last month’s supply, straight from the farm, so I was prepared for the task of making Celery Root Rémoulade.

The base is a tangy dressing made from mayonnaise, a combination of crème fraîche and sour cream, Dijon and whole-grain mustard and lemon juice.  Ooh-la-la!

The most challenging part is to peel and julienne the celery root.  Carefully peeling with a knife is not that hard.  Unfortunately, my celery roots had some woody parts inside, so the next step of slicing into tiny sticks was a bit tedious because I had to take time to cut out those woody sections.  I was in a bit of a hurry and just mixed all the celery root I’d cut into the full amount of dressing.  I used less celery root than called for which resulted in an overly creamy salad.  This could easily be remedied by adding more celery root or only mixing in the amount of dressing needed to coat.  I also forgot to add the parsley which would add an extra freshness and some color.

Despite my shortcomings in following the directions, the celery root rémoulade is a delicious salad, one that I would enjoy again and again.

It was the perfect foil to a grilled Cheddar, caramelized onion, and kale sandwich!  My new trick with grilled cheese is to lightly coat the OUTSIDE of the bread with mayonnaise instead of butter.  It’s much easier to spread and browns up beautifully.

Why was I in a hurry?  I was trying to mix up the salad before I headed out to meet Tricia (daughter of Chez Nana’s Ro) to attend a demo and tasting with David Tanis.  The event was part of the book tour for his newest cookbook David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient which was released in October.  The book is filled with straightforward recipes and ideas to prepare fresh seasonal produce from your local farmers’ market.  Most (maybe all) of the recipes are accompanied by photographs, so it is a beautiful book in addition to being inspiring.  For about two hours, he talked about cooking, his cooking life, as he demonstrated a selection of recipes from the book.

Students of Boston University’s culinary program had worked all day with Chef David to prepare the recipes, and as we watched and listened to the presentation, we were served tastings.  The menu included Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta, Onion and Bacon Tart, Cumin Lamb Pitas, and a Rustic French Apple Tart.  These recipes resonated with my own sensibilities about cooking, so I left inspired to try my hand at these and many other recipes in the book.  Check out this new book which has its own variation on celery root rémoulade!

If you want to try celery root salad yourself, the recipe is on page 105 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  My Cook the Book Fridays friends’ reviews of the same recipe can be found here.

Bon Appetit!

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Love for Ugly Vegetables {CtBF}

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?

You can find the recipe for the soup on page 106 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  My friends at Cook the Book Fridays will also have something to say about their own renditions of the soup here.

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.