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Seasonal Eats: The Story of Celeriac

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Celeriac at the market (Photo by Heather Parlato/LAist)


Celeriac at the market (Photo by Heather Parlato/LAist)
A good deal of my winter food research leads me to these amazing root vegetable purees and mashes, where a variety of vegetables take your typical mashed potatoes and infuse them with color and flavor. One popular suggestion is celeriac, or celery root, which has the flavor of celery with a touch of fennel, and a nutty warmth when cooked. This nice reader-person asked if I’d write about it, and I promised that if I found some I would, so here it is!

Celeriac, or celery root, is much more popular in Europe than it is here, which explains why only one vendor at the market had some. Once you cut away the outer root mass, you’ll have yourself a hearty meal in the making from October to April. Celery roots are about the size of a potato, and can be used in many of the same ways, though the starch content of celeriac is much lower, with a glycemic load of 6. If you can get one with undamaged celery tops, the celery tops can be tubular and make great natural straws for bloody marys, Wikipedia tells me. Celeriac is also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium and manganese, and a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, phosphorous and potassium.

What I don’t need to describe at length are the myriad purées, mashes, gratins and root vegetable roasts you can do with celeriac. There are so many out there, it becomes more about your preference rather than how to do it. I’ll skip the details on these and give you my favorites of what I found: roasted root vegetables, white root vegetable soup, potato celeriac gratin, and potato and celery root purée. And don’t forget, if you’re roasting meat over a pan of potatoes, cube up some celeriac and add it in!

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If you’re ready to hone your knife skills or grab your julienne slicer, there are all kinds of salads you can get into with celeriac. The traditional French preparation is a celeriac remoulade, which uses a Dijon sauce. You can also pair the spice of radish in this celeriac, radish and watercress salad. Enjoy a selection of raw winter vegetables in this Italian vegetables and orange sauce salad. Combine root forces with beet and celeriac salad. Finally, this winter salad packs all kinds of seasonal crunch.

Some unexpected uses include this celeriac and apple puree which skates the line between sweet and savory. When I saw this celeriac and peas idea, it didn’t grab me at first, but the reviews sang a chorus of praise that tipped the scales. Since it’s soup season, I really wanted to include this seafood in celeriac and lovage broth, which sounds like it has layers of flavor, whether you do it with seafood or not. Again, with the layers-of-flavor idea, I’ve never heard of making a pesto of celery leaves, and when I read this celery root risotto and pesto recipe, I gave them big points for originality. Sounds delicious!

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Winter Root Vegetable Haystack Fritters (Photo by Heather Parlato/LAist)
Winter Root Vegetable Haystack Fritters
[makes about 10]

Ingredients

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1 medium celery root, julienned

1 large russet potato, julienned

1 medium carrot, julienned

1 small onion, julienned

½ apple, julienned

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2 eggs

1 Tb white flour

oil for frying [olive or canola are best]

Either use your knife skills, ready your food processor or whip out your julienne mandoline, but get all those veggies and the apple into tiny matchstick slices in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to your preference. Crack the two eggs over the top and toss to break the yolks and coat the veggies. Add the flour and toss to mix through.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and drop in silver-dollar-sized patties of the vegetable mix, packing and shaping them with a fork as you go. Pour a little extra egg liquid into each. Brown on each side at least 10 minutes, so the outsides are crispy [I’m not much of a cook-by-time person, I flip frequently and judge doneness by the looks].

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These will be a bit softer than potato haystacks or latkes, due to the lower starch content, but serve them with whatever you like on your potato pancakes. If you want to get creative, maybe a whip up a spiced yogurt.