Monday, October 24, 2011

An Adventurous Plate: Celery Root

There is a fabulous market in nearby Ellicott City once a month.  It's called the Second Sunday Market, and occurs on dates in accordance with it's name.  My first visit was earlier this October - I was attracted by the promise of "exotic vegetables" being sold by a local French restaurant and I was not disappointed! I left with a bunch of lovely golden beets and a handful of parsnips for roasting, but my favorite find was an oft-passed-up and underappreciated vegetable called celery root.

About Celery Root
The knobby celery root is not going to win any beauty contests, but like the very best ugly ducklings, it surprises us in the end.


A chef was presiding over the exotic vegetable stand and she so heartily recommended the celery root that I had to take it.  She encouraged me to take a pre-purchase sniff and I was overcome with the aroma, of all things, of celery.  Not of a watery, pale green stalk for filling space in soups, but of something much brighter. It smelled fresh, of the earth, and salty.  

About The Soup
I looked for a recipe to do justice to my celery root upon arriving at home and came up with a soup that looked promising: Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup.  My recipe is below, followed more or less from whatwouldcathyeat.com.

1 butternut squash
1 celery root
1 large onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
6 fresh sage leaves
1 cup dry white wine
7 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and cube the squash and celery root.  Toss it in a roasting pan with a bit of the olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.  Spread it in a single layer in the pan (use multiple pans if you are like me and don't own any giant ones) and roast it until it's tender and starting to brown, about 25 minutes.

Heat a bit more olive oil in the pot you want to make your soup in.  Sauté the onion, red pepper flakes, and sage until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and cook until it's reduced by half.  Add the stock and the roasted vegetables and simmer the whole thing for about 10 minutes.  Let it cool a bit and use your immersion blender to smooth the soup.  Season as you like, I would recommend a bit of pepper but no salt as the celery root has a salty taste of it's own. 


I enjoyed eating this soup so much, I actually felt a pang of sadness when we finished the pot.  And an added bonus?  No trash!  Save your vegetable scraps for stock, enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, and there is nothing to throw away.

About The Bread
You may have noticed a slice of bread in the picture above, and it should not go without mention.  It was part of a fresh-baked black olive and rosemary loaf from The Little French Market, a restaurant also representing itself at Second Sundays, and it was good. Good with olive oil. Good with Earth Balance. Yummy in the soup. Great by itself.  

If you attend the market, make sure to buy a loaf; at least take the time to snack on a sample (although you won't be able to leave without buying more).  Be aware that the bread stand is not for the faint-of-heart, as local bees seem to have caught on to the wonderful fresh-baked smells and told all of their bee friends.  

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