Comforting soup made from celery root, applesauce, and leek confit, topped with gorgonzola crumbles.
It’s arguably one of the least attractive vegetables on the shelf; an overweight wallflower with dirt under her fingernails, tucked between popular colorful produce. No graceful long legs of celery stalks to make her stand out, although she’s in the celery family; nor colorful flowing mane of leaves like that donned by the nearby flames of beets. Instead, celery root has a bulbous misshapen root body with chopped off Medusa-like fat roots curled up into the root ball; a sad disarray of stalks, sometimes springing from her crown, if not shorn into a crew cut.
For some reason, seeing neat stacks of celery root lined up with other produce on the grocery shelf, straggly stalks limply drooping over dirt encrusted roots, I’m reminded of the awkward Junior High School dances of my youth, a rite of passage for so many of us.
Boys lined up against one wall, as if to support it in case it were to fall, while mustering up the courage to walk across the open expanse of the gymnasium floor to ask a girl to dance, knowing that any rejection would be public. On the other side of the gym, girls staking out their own wall, clustered in small nervously excited, chattering groups, separated into cliques that somehow formed in the first month of Junior High. Girls who had spent days discussing with their best friends what they would wear, followed by hours of experimenting with new hair styles, trying to look cute while watching the boys out of the corner of our eyes.
If you should ask a celery root to dance with you, I can tell you she whispers a distinctive flavor – as if she were the child of celery and parsley, a little of both flavors coming through. Cradle her in your hand to carve away the knobby, deeply fissured surface, and a smooth white form is unveiled that can be molded to your mood. Cut the root into matchsticks and eat raw in salads, or fry them up like a French fry. Boil the root and substitute for potatoes, or mix into your favorite mashed potatoes to reduce the glycemic load.
For today, I chose to cube it up to simmer for a puréed soup, brightened with a little applesauce, and topped with gorgonzola crumbles and chopped celery leaves. A comforting, quiet lunch to share on a day threatening snow.
A Few Nutrition Notes:
Unlike other root vegetables, celery root isn’t particularly starchy, and is considered a low-carb vegetable.
A number of vitamins and minerals are present in celery root, most notably vitamin C, which is great for building a healthy immune system, and potassium. It’s also high in dietary fiber.
A Few Cooking Notes:
The best way to carve away the exterior is to just grip the knife and plunge in by first cutting off the crown with the stalks, and then the bottom of the root. With a paring knife, carve away the sides. You’ll notice threads of what looks to be dirt and root hairs. Carefully carve them away by notching into the root around them.
Celery Root and Apple Soup with Gorgonzola
- 6 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 medium celery roots, peeled, chopped into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups or a little more)
- 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped celery stalks, reserving some leaves for garnishing
- 1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons leek confit
- 1 4 ounce container apple sauce (or 1 1/2 apples cooked down)
- 1 cup 1% milk
- 1 tablespoon créme fråiche
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper (to taste)
- 3 little squirts sriracha (optional)
- Gorgonzola crumbled (for garnish)
- Chopped celery leaves (for garnish)
- Coarsely ground black pepper (for garnish)
Bring the water or vegetable broth and salt to a boil over high heat in a medium-large pot. Add the cubed celery root and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain, retaining 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid. Set aside.
In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil and add the chopped celery and onion. Place a lid on the pot and simmer until very soft, about 15 minutes.
Stir the leek confit. Add the celery root and reserved cooking liquid, and apple sauce, and stir.
Purée using either a submersible blender or food processor.
Rewarm the soup and stir in the milk and créme fråiche. Add salt and pepper to taste, and (if using) a few little squirts of Sriracha for some heat.
Ladle warm into soup bowls and top with a crumble of gorgonzola and chopped celery leaves.