Thursday, January 26, 2012

Consider Celeriac

It's not the prettiest of vegetables.

Chances are good that if I asked you, you couldn't even name this chubby little root vegetable with all these tiny roots and root hairs abounding upon it.
(At least not before you read the title of this article.) 

But it's late January, and time to be ordering your seeds. So I am asking you to consider growing celeriac this year.  Also known as "celery root," celeriac is somehow related to celery, and has a very similar flavor.  One reason I grow celeriac instead of celery is that you can overwinter it just as you would carrots: buried in sand in the root cellar, or in the drawer of an extra refrigerator. 
And secondly, truth be told, any celery I have ever grown was too tough to be edible, and I love the flavor of celery in my soups.  

This little guy has been in a plastic bag in the spare fridge since late September.  See the little sprout coming out, he's ready to grow!  Sorry, dude, but you're headed for the soup pot. 

Celeriac at the Willi Food Co-op.
(Thank you, iPhone!)

If I'm going to convince you to grow some celeriac, I have to show you how easy and versatile it is to cook with.  So let's make some mushroom barley soup!  You can find some celery root at your local food co-op or grocery store.  At the latter venue it may be wrapped in saran wrap so that you don't know...dirty.

Before we begin to prepare the vegetables, set a kettle of water on to boil.  If you don't have a large kettle, put 3/4 cup barley, a bay leaf, and 3 quarts of water in a soup pot and place on high heat to begin cooking the barley.

Now, the celeriac you see on the cutting board in a prior photo has been trimmed of roots and leaves and sprayed blasted with the garden hose to remove as much soil as possible, but clearly, some soil still clings to the roots.  So, under running water, pare down the outer skin, removing all roots and any dark areas.

Now, set this little beauty aside and prepare your mushrooms.  I have here organic white button mushrooms from the Willimantic Food Co-op.  To wash mushrooms, run each one under tap, gently brushing away any dirt that you see.  Set on a comfy fabric towel to drain. 

The stem of the mushroom is usually quite tough; I like to slice the stem into little discs, then proceed to slice the caps.
Set these aside and chop one medium onion and three cloves of garlic.  Also chop the celariac.  Celariac has the consistency of a carrot, so it is harder to slice than, say, a mushroom.   Begin by cutting off the top and the bottom.  Then cut in half so you have a flat side to use as a base.  Now just cut into dice.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons butter or oil and saute the onions, garlic, and chopped celeriac.  I had some fresh cilantro on hand, so I threw that in as well. At this time I also add about one teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano. Add salt if you use it, and freshly ground black pepper. 
Toss in the mushrooms and cook and stir until the onions are golden and translucent.

Add to the barley and water in the stock pot and cook at a slow boil until the barley is soft, about 45 minutes to an hour. Enjoy!!
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Danish Troubadour flemming Behrend said...

Love Celeriac. just planted over one hundred in our community garden this spring. All from seed. Is it really enough to store them in an extra fridge? Your dish looks yummy. I normally slice them and turn them in Panko, fry them and eat them like a steak :0)

Jane said...

Ideally you would bury them in sand in a trash can,in the cold cellar. Recently we have been putting them in a refrigerator, in large plastic bags. You have to check on them to be sure they are not too moist, or they get slimy. That said, it's easy. But I do hate to use plastic.