Celery Root: The Unsung Vegetable Hero

Celery Root by Lee Court Farms, found on WiveswithKnives.net

Guest Post by Robyn Selman

You don’t see recipes for celery root (celeriac) very often. It’s definitely one of the ugly ducklings at the produce stand. But once you peel off that gnarly brown exterior (resembling the surface of the moon), you get a low-starch, low-calorie root vegetable that smells and tastes like a mixture of celery and parsley, and is a champion source of fiber, potassium, and cancer-fighting antioxidants. When baked until tender, the texture reminds me of cooked carrots. I always find myself turning to Mark Bittman’s cookbooks when I want to cook with a less familiar vegetable, and I was not disappointed with this recipe. Gratins with root vegetables make perfect winter meals, especially when you add beans and whole grains to make them really filling.

White Bean and Celery Root Gratin with Bulgur Crust
Adapted from Mark Bittman – How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4

½ cup fine-grind bulgur
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish and drizzling
1 ½ pounds celery root, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained but still moist, liquid reserved
1 teaspoon sweet or Spanish smoked paprika
2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves or 1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano

Photo by Robyn Selman

Put the bulgur into a heatproof bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over the top. Stir, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Once the water has absorbed, fluff with a fork, drizzle with a little oil, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Lightly oil a 2-quart soufflé dish, gratin dish, or a 9×13 inch baking pan and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 °F.

In a large deep skillet, add 3 tablespoons of oil and heat over medium heat. When hot, add the celery root and cook for about 8 minutes, until it starts to brown. Add the onion and some salt and pepper and cook for another 3 minutes or so, until the vegetables are soft and golden brown.

Off heat, stir in the garlic, beans, paprika, and herbs. Add some of the reserved bean liquid if it seems dry (it should resemble a thick stew). Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Spread the bean and vegetable mixture into the pre-oiled pan. Top evenly with the bulgur and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the edges and top are browned and bubbling happily. The time might vary depending on how deep your baking dish is.

Serve immediately or let rest for up to an hour and serve at room temperature.

If you can’t find finely ground bulgur at your store (I couldn’t), then you should just buy regular bulgur and grind it yourself in a coffee or spice grinder at home. The first time I made this recipe I did not grind it and I was sorry. The bulgur pieces became so hard from baking that it hurt my teeth to bite down on them. So I made it again, this time grinding it first in my small coffee grinder reserved for spices until it looked similar to fine bread crumbs, and the result was MUCH better. Just goes to show that recipe instructions are chosen for good reasons and I should really pay attention to them!

Don’t have celery root? Other vegetables you can use include: potatoes, parsnips, eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, fennel, carrots, summer squash, green beans, asparagus, or cabbage.

Robyn Selman is a recovering “picky eater.” After eating pre-packaged, processed foods her whole life she decided to make the switch to fresh, homemade meals and has never looked back. Now she approaches cooking with the mindset of “the more vegetables, the better” and loves trying out new recipes. She tries to buy local whenever possible and loves Community Supported Agriculture. Her life happily revolves around her work, her husband, and their crazy cat. She loves board games, hiking, dancing, good books, and good coffee. You can read more on her blog, Robyn Cooks.

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