If I had to choose a word to define my childhood and even teenage years, fear would be it. To name a few of my fears: darkness, sleeping alone, mirrors, clowns, dolls, sleepovers, odd numbers (don’t ask), heights, cockroaches. There were many more, but let’s keep it simple, shall we? Glad to report that just as my pickiness to eat, those fears are a thing of the past. Except heights and cockroaches. The former I still try to work on, cockroaches are out of question. I am talking about the tropical kind, with their scary dimensions and uncanny ability to fly across a room. I shiver just to think about them. Growing up, I don’t remember ever seeing celery root in our home, but being the easily scared self I was, I bet I would be afraid of it too. It does look like a large potato under the spell of black magic. Something that belongs in the setting of Hansel and Gretel’s tale (which as a matter of fact gave me nightmares for months after reading it as a child).
But, don’t let celery root (aka celeriac) looks prevent you from enjoying it. Under that harsh appearance, lies a beautiful white entity, with a flavor vaguely reminiscent of celery, but much more complex. Yes, it is a bit hard to peel, and if you are not careful a finger or two could be hurt in the process, but keep calm, peel on, and make soup before the weather gets too hot. Too hot. What a silly statement. Sorry, sometimes I make no sense.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium celery rib, diced
1 shallot, minced
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut in chunks
3 to 4 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and cut in chunks
salt and black pepper
dash of nutmeg
4 cups water
lemon juice to taste
Heat the olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate all ingredients. Sautee the shallot with the celery until fragrant and shallots become translucent. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the pieces of parsnips and celeriac, saute for a few minutes, moving them around.
Add water, making sure it cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, cook until parsnips and celeriac pieces are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the veggies with some of the water to a blender or food processor, blend until smooth. You might need to do it in two batches, being careful while processing hot liquids (using a blender keep the lid open and cover the top with a kitchen cloth). Use only enough water to get the consistency you like.
Return the processed soup to the pan on low heat, adjust consistency with the reserved water if needed. Season with nutmeg, add a squeeze of lemon juice, taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve with coconut flakes (unsweetened) sautéed in olive oil or butter, lightly seasoned with salt, or with any other topping you like.
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This was a delicious soup, the lemon juice at the end does that citric magic I am very fond of. If I had a dollar bill for every time I use lemon juice in my cooking, I’d be rich. You can make this soup a bit more luscious adding a touch of cream if you want, or using chicken stock instead of water, but I often like to keep things simple and let the flavor of the veggies take the spotlight. I am not quite sure about the nutmeg. I love nutmeg with cauliflower and in bechamel sauce, but I might omit it in this soup next time. Maybe I used too heavy a hand, I thought the flavor was a bit too strong. Anyway, if you make it, go easy with it and taste it.
Before I say goodbye, here is a small collection of recipes to help you lose any residual fear of celery root… just in case you need it ;-)
SWEET AND SOUR CELERIAC SEPHARDIC STYLE, from Tasty Eats
CELERY ROOT, APPLE AND WALNUT SALAD from Cooking and Traveling in Italy and Beyond
CELERY ROOT LETTUCE WRAPS from The Wimpy Vegetarian
CELERY ROOT REMOULADE, from Kitchen Riffs
FRENCH LENTILS WITH CARAMELIZED CELERY ROOT, from Martha Stewart
POACHED EGGS OVER CELERY ROOT LATKES, from Fresh Start
POTATO AND CELERY ROOT ROSTI, from Martha Stewart
I hope you enjoyed this small tour on celeriac possibilities, and if you are a celeriac virgin, you will give it a try in the near future. Nothing to fear, I promise!
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