I have always wanted to buy a celeriac, but I never had a reason.
Still, when swiss chard, more swiss chard (not that I have anything against an additional bunch of awesome swiss chard!), or a bulb of fresh, organic celeriac presented itself as a shopping decision two weeks in a row at my CSA stand, I could not resist temptation. Luckily my copy of Yotam Ottlenghi’s Plenty had not one but two recipes for this knotty little root vegetable, and I had all the makings for one of them. Good thing since, based on recent dinners, the husband was beginning to think that our vegetable drawer was producing an infinite swiss chard supply of its own volition.
Though I was disappointed to weight my “one small celeriac” and discover that it was significantly smaller than the small 1.5 lbs. vegetable indicated in the recipe, I recovered as soon as the cooking was done and the eating began. Celeriac is a type of celery, as you might have suspected, but in this case it’s the root bulb that is its most attractive feature. To me it conjures a parsnip/potato/celery cross in taste, but it’s significantly less starchy than your typical Yukon. I found it to be quite wonderful, and will be keeping an eye out for more of these little hobbit treats at this weekend’s market. Apparently, they store well!
The variety of textures alongside the amazing tastes are what really make this dish a standout in my mind. In addition to the loveliness of celeriac, the lentils keep their shape and marry very well with the herbs, vinegar, and oils. The hazelnuts add richness and crunch, while the mint keeps things just on this side of summer. This seems to be one of those dishes that just keeps getting better as it marinates in the fridge, so do not fear the leftovers. Even at room temperature, this would serve as a phenomenal picnic or brunch dish without its features getting muted.
Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnut and Mint
From Plenty by Yotam Ottlenghi
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts
1 cup French green lentils
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
4 thyme springs
1.5 lbs. celeriac bulb, peeled and cubed
4 T olive oil
3 T hazelnut oil
3 T red wine vinegar
4 T chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper
Roast the hazelnuts in a 275˚F oven for 15 minutes. Cool and roughly chop.
Combine rinsed lentils, water, bay leaves, and thyme in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils are al dente. You definitely want them to retain their shape. Drain.
While the lentils cook, bring a second pan of well-salted water to a boil and cook the celeriac for 8-10 minutes, until just fork-tender. Drain.
As soon as the lentils are drained, pour them into a large bowl and stir in the red wine vinegar, the olive oil, and 2T of the hazelnut oil, salt and pepper. Add in the cooked celeriac and half the mint and hazelnuts and toss. Adjust the seasonings as needed. Plate, using the reserved mint, nuts, and a drizzle of hazelnut oil to garnish.