Sunday, October 4, 2015

Homely Celeriac Becomes Beauitful Co-Star in Beet Salad

Trimmed but not yet pared celeriac from the garden

Robert grew a patch of celeriac (also called celery-root) in the garden this year.  A 2006 NPR story by vegetable expert Jack Staub calls celeriac "the unsung frog prince of winter vegetables." It is not a pretty root--but it can be a delicious addition to fall and winter fare and it is remarkably versatile. Staub describes its flavor as a cross between celery and parsley, which is apt.  Celeriac can be boiled or roasted--essentially treated like you would any root vegetable.  But unlike most root vegetables and winter squash (potatoes, turnips, parsnips, etc.) it's also great raw, which is how I used it in this salad with another root crop: beets. 

The original recipe comes from a 2004 Gourmet Magazine article, available at Epicurious. Some reviewers of the recipe claim this salad made beet lovers out of beet haters.  A few reviewers also complain that the recipe is a lot of work. The beets are roasted for about an hour and there is a fair amount of chopping involved.  The result of that effort, though, is a unique and tasty salad that's also good for you!  Since we have a bunch of celeriac still growing in the garden, I'll be looking for more ways to use it as fall unfolds. Stay tuned!

To save time, you may be tempted to skip roasting fresh beets and instead use canned.  I think that would result in a just fine salad, but the roasting takes the flavor to another level.  You might also be tempted not to cut the vegetables into matchsticks, opting for a rougher, if quicker, chop of some kind.  That might also work, but I think the time spent on cutting into matchsticks makes these two root vegetables great co-stars and is worth the few minutes it takes.  A sharp knife (thanks, Robert!) is very helpful for this recipe!

I, of course, added honey to the dressing--and humbly suggest that the honey should earn a best supporting ingredient award. Scroll past the salad photo for the recipe!

Raw celeriac turns a lovely pink when paired with roasted beets in this salad.
Celeriac & Beet Salad
4 medium beets, top greens trimmed off and beets well-washed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound celeriac, trimmed and peeled 
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley 
Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Place beets on a piece of foil large enough to enclose beets entirely.  Drizzle the 1 tablespoon of olive oil over beets, sprinkle with salt and wrap the foil around the beets.  Place package in a pan in case the packet leaks and roast the beets for about an hour--or until they're completely tender.  Remove the beets from the oven and let them steam in the package until they're cool enough to handle.

While the beets roast, slice the celeriac into matchsticks about 1/8 inch thick and 1 or 1 1/2 inches long.  You can save time by cutting the celeriac into thin slices, stacking the slices and then making the matchsticks.  Place the cut celeriac and chopped onions into a bowl &  drizzle the honey over them.  Toss with your hands so that the honey coats the matchsticks.  This will prevent the celeriac from browning too much while you wait for the beets to cool. Place the lemon juice, oil, salt & pepper in a jar, secure the lid tightly, and shake the bejeebers out of it to emulsify the dressing. (You could also do this in a small food processor.)  Pour the dressing over the celeriac and toss to coat.  Cover the bowl while you wait for the beets to cool.  When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip the peels off and cut them into matchsticks. Place them in the bowl with the dressed celeriac.  Toss and watch the celeriac turn into a lovely pink color.  If you're serving right away, taste for seasoning (may need more lemon juice or salt or pepper--or honey!) and then sprinkle the parsley on top.  I think this salad benefits from sitting around a day to let the flavors meld.  Can be served cold or at room temperature.

If you want to guild the lily--or make a bigger salad--you could add an apple also sliced into matchsticks.  A tablespoon or so of grated ginger would also be nice.  Other variations could include orange juice instead of lemon juice with a teaspoon or so of grated orange peel to boost the flavor.

This recipe makes 8 servings. 

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