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Celery Root

by Louise Fiszer & Jeannette Ferrary

Despite its association with root vegetables, celery root (or celeriac, as it is sometimes called) has a certain panache. Perhaps this is due to its honored place in the French specialty, celery remoulade, or because it makes such luxurious pairings with dried cepes or with tender artichoke hearts. In the form of a distinctive salad or soup, celery root is often served apart from the meal, either first or as a separate course. As one old American cookbook suggests: "Serve....after the roast-piece of the dinner."

Most cookbooks, however, simply ignored the vegetable, also called soup celery, celery knob, and turnip rooted celery -- by any name. In fact, it enjoys wide popularity in this country only in German communities, where it is pureed and in stews. Celery Root has a pungent celery-like flavor and is, in fact, a special variety of celery, developed by gardeners during the Renaissance. In recipes calling for cauliflower, fennel or cardoon, celery root makes an interesting and unexpected substitute if not a quantum improvement.

Consumer and Cooking Guide

Market Selection
Vegetables should be firm with no brown soft spots.
Sprouting tops should be bright green.

October through April

Wrap celery root in plastic and refrigerate for up to one week.

Flavor Enhancers
Nutmeg, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, allspice.

1 small celery root, sliced = 2 cups

Nutritional Value
Rich in phosphorous and potassium.
40 calories per cup

Basic Cooking Methods
Peel and cube celery root and cook in boiling salted water about 10 minutes.

Celery Root and Apple Salad with Toasted Walnuts
serves 4 to 6

2 medium celery roots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 medium red delicious apples, cored and cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 bunch watercress leaves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper
1 cup walnut halves, toasted

Combine the celery root and apple in a bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Toss with the green onion and watercress. Whisk the vinegar, mustard seed, mustard, honey and oil until well combined. Toss with the celery root mixture. Taste for salt and pepper and garnish with walnuts.

Mashed Medley of Winter Roots
serves 6 to 8

1 celery root, peeled and cubed
1 all purpose potato, peeled and cubed
1 rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup chopped chives

In a large pot of boiling water cook the vegetables and garlic until tender, about 40 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables to a food processor and puree with the butter and the milk. If the consistency is too thick, add some vegetable cooking water until you have the desired consistence. Season with salt and cayenne. Spread in shallow serving dish and sprinkle with chives.

Celery Root and Mushroom Soup
serves 6 to 8

3 tablespoons butter
2 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed and caps thinly sliced
1 leek, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
4 cups peeled and cubed celery root
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves

In a large saucepan heat 2 tablespoons butter. Cook mushrooms until edges are brown, about 8 minutes, and remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside. Add remaining butter to pot and cook leek and celery until wilted. Stir in tarragon, celery root and stock. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer 20 minutes or until celery root is tender. In a blender or food processor puree mixture in batches. Return to pot and stir in cream until well blended. Add portobellos and reheat gently. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with celery leaves.

Jeannette & Louise are Bay Area freelance food writers and the authors of several books including Sweet Onions & Sour Cherries and A Good Day for Soup.

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