Thursday, September 18, 2014

Vegetable Feature: Celeriac

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz

This week’s vegetable feature was highlighted in a 2006 National Public Radio (NPR) article entitled: “The vegetable world’s ugly duckling: Celeriac.” We admit it—celeriac is certainly not the most visually pleasing vegetable out there, but what it may lack in terms of aesthetics, it more than makes up for in taste with its subtle parsley-celery flavor profile. A member of the Umbelliferae family and a cousin to anise, carrots, parsley and parsnips, you may also hear celeriac referred to as celery root, turnip-rooted celery or knob celery. Historically speaking, it is believed that celeriac had medicinal and religious uses in many early civilizations, including those of Italy, Egypt and Greece. While it was not recorded as a food plant until 1623 in France, celeriac did make an appearance—not as celeriac or celery, but as selinon—in Homer’s Odyssey all the way back in 800 B.C. Today, celeriac is most widely used in France and is famous for its role in the traditional Céleri Rémoulade salad (check out David Lebovitz’s take on this dish on his website). Celeriac is much more resistant to disease in comparison to celery. It also can be stored for up to 6 months making it a great substitute for celery as part of a local Midwestern diet.

Celeriac in field
Having been developed from the same wild species as stalk celery, celeriac differs in that it is grown
not for its stalk but instead for its developed root. Although part of the celeriac plant does indeed consist of deep green, upward-reaching stalks and leaves, celeriac gets it somewhat unfortunate reputation from what grows beneath the soil—a gnarly knob which, according to NPR, looks like “a troll’s orb of warts and roots.” Now, don’t be intimidated and remember that celeriac is a truly underrated vegetable! To get to the crisp ivory flesh underneath, just cut a slice off of the top and bottom. Then, use a paring or even a chef’s knife (a peeler won’t work as well) slice down from the top, removing the roots and skin as you go. From here, you can boil, braise, steam, shred or roast your celeriac. You can even eat it raw. One cautionary word of advice—celeriac is quick to discolor, so as you dice or shred it, promptly place it into acidulated water (water with a splash of lemon juice or white wine vinegar). Finally, don’t toss those stalks and leaves! They will lend their rich flavor to soup stocks, while the leaves on their own may be finely chopped and thrown in with any dish in need of a little extra flavor. Nutritionally, celeriac is an excellent source of vitamins B and C, as well as potassium, manganese and phosphorous. Being low in carbs, you may be urged to substitute celeriac for potatoes. If you ask us, we say use them both! There’s nothing quite like a winter mash of celeriac, potatoes, garlic and cream.

Sources: Vegetable Literacy; National Public Radio

Curried Celeriac Slaw with Dried Cherries
Recipe borrowed from Cooking Light Annual Recipes from 2003

Yield: 4 servings

½ cup dried tart cherries
½ cup finely chopped red onion
3 Tbsp plain yogurt
3 Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
3 cups shredded, peeled celeriac

Combine all ingredients except for the celeriac in a large bowl, stirring well to combine.
Add the celeriac; toss well to coat. Cover and chill for 2 hours before serving

Celery Root and Mushroom Latkes 
with Onion Applesauce
Recipe borrowed from Bon Appetit magazine in December 2011.

Yield: 16 latkes

Onion Applesauce
1—8 oz Granny Smith apple 
1 medium onion, unpeeled
2 tsp kosher salt plus more for seasoning
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 pound celery root (celeriac), peeled, coarsely grated
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, coarsely grated
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 pound fresh mushrooms, washed 
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil (for frying)

First prepare the onion applesauce. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with foil. Wrap the apple in another piece of foil. Place the unpeeled onion and apple on the prepared sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool completely, keeping the apple in the foil.
Unwrap the apple, core, peel and place with juices in a food processor. Peel onion; add to processor. Add 2 tsp salt. Puree until very smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Season applesauce with salt. Cover, chill. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

Meanwhile, mix celery root, potatoes, and salt in a large colander set over a large bowl to draw out moisture. Chill; let drain for 1½ hours. Mix in mushrooms; let drain in refrigerator for 30 minutes longer.

Using your hands, squeeze excess moisture from the potato mixture. Transfer to another large bowl. Stir in the eggs and the next 4 ingredients; blend thoroughly. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours. (This will help bind the latkes).

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Divide latke mixture into 16 equal portions on another baking sheet. Form each into a ½-inch thick patty. Pour oil into a large nonstick skillet to a depth of ¼ inch; heat over medium heat. Working in batches, fry latkes until cooked through and golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to prepared sheet; keep warm in oven while frying remaining latkes.

Serve warm latkes with onion applesauce.

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