Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vegetable Adventures I: Celery Root Soup with Toasted Pine Nuts

Long live the blender! Aaaand, Clément's new camera!! (get a load of that image quality)

It's my current fascination to explore seasonal vegetables in an in-depth fashion. I want to know the texture they can give to a soup, the taste they have when by themselves. I'd like to understand exactly what kind of pairings and combinations are possible, and figure out exactly what I can do with the vegetables in question. My method is therefore to explore them through soup, using leftover soup as a sauce for meat, fish, etc. So, the first vegetable (or second, if you count the roasted peppers) that I attempted to comprehend was: celery root!

I had never done anything with celery root before a little over a month ago, when I caramelized it with other root vegetables to eat with Tunisian-spiced chicken. I realized at that moment that I really like it. This time I brought a brain-sized one, struggled to cut it up into chunks with my somewhat lackluster knife set (one day I'll have nice knives...), peeled it, and simmered it in some homemade chicken broth I had made the day before. I added sautéed shallots, then puréed everything. I seasoned with salt and pepper, tasted, and it was still missing something. I looked around a little on the internet for inspiration, and decided on lemon juice, which helped a lot. Then I remembered I had some pine nuts in the cupboard, which I toasted, and sprinkled on the soup with a dollop of crème fraîche and a dusting of nutmeg. It was not bad. It had a serious celery flavor, and the addition of some citrus and some nutty crunch was a nice complement. I honestly really enjoyed eating it. But I have to admit, today I used the leftovers as a sauce for some pork chops with hashbrowns and an apple-onion compote, and it was much better in this context. But that's another post...

For the moment, the recipe:

Simple Celery Root Soup

1 celery root the size of a small child's head (or numerous smaller ones, until you achieve a quantity that ressembles a small child's head)
chicken or vegetable broth
2-3 medium-to-large shallots
olive oil
juice of 1/2 small lemon
little handful of pine nuts (eyeball it to taste)
salt, pepper, nutmeg
crème fraîche

Chop up celery root into chunks, and peel them. Simmer in broth until tender. Meanwhile, sweat shallots in a dousing of olive oil over medium heat, and toast pine nuts in an ungreased skillet over medium heat until browned around the edges, setting the latter aside. Add broth with celery root and shallots to a blender, purée. Add lemon juice, and water if your soup is too thick. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste; stir. Put back on stove, bring just to a boil, then cut off heat. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of pine nuts and additional nutmeg.

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