Every heard of celeriac? It also goes by the name celery root. Put simply, it is an ugly, knobby, root vegetable that tastes like celery but is starchy like a potato. You can eat it raw or cooked; roasted, baked, steamed, cooked in soups, braised, raw, doesn't matter, celeriac is always delicious. And while celeriac hasn't captured any remarkable popularity here in the States yet, celeriac is very popular in other parts of the world, especially in French cuisine. Ah yes, the French love their celeriac, and I love the French. One of classic French celeriac dishes is celeri rémoulade. Like most French salads, is remarkably simple and totally delicious; shredded celeriac in a mustardy mayonnaise dressing, sometimes with a bit of hard-boiled egg added in, other times with a pinch of tarragon. I had the fortune of eating this salad in France on a number of occasions, and was always delighted with it. Seriously, the French really know how to work with vegetables; much can be learned from the way their cuisine celebrates and highlights the natural flavors and textures of each ingredient.
Since I'm off the mayonnaise these days (no more eggs for me, boo), but still have this deep love of of celeri rémoulade, I like to make my own mayo-free versions . I come up with various versions of it pretty frequently, with whatever I have on hand. Sometimes I opt for a tart, vinaigrette-type dressing, other times I use a creamy one. Regardless of the ingredients or dressing, a few things are always certain: it is simple to make, it is always delicious, and allows me to sink deep into daydreams of France.
I have been eating all sorts of French-inspired foods the last week; the abundance of harvest vegetables and fall weather always makes me think of France and puts me in the mood for a partie de campagne (day in the country). Over the weekend I made an epicCaramelized Onion, Fig, and Parsnip Tart ( ooh la la ). I will be sharing the recipe for this soon, but need to do a little tweaking. I used a bunch of fig sauce I had made and had stashed away in the freezer. About a month back, when figs were all over the place, I had purchased about 4 lbs of them (crazy) and made ahugebatch of the most incredible sauce I've ever tasted. I'd like to come up with a recipe for similar tasting fig sauce that is on a smaller scale and uses dry figs, which are available year-round. Good things come to those who wait, friends - this recipe will come soon, I promise. In the meantime, here are some tempting photos of the tart. The filling was rich and savory without being heavy, and the crust was golden and tender. Wow.
On another French-inspired note, I am working on a recipe for a vegan Chickpea Paté de Campagne for my cookbook-to-be, inspired by the hearty, country-style patés found at French street markets and boucheries. Those patés convinced me that liver is truly fit to eat - as a vegetarian, I remember waxing philosophical about how nasty it was for people to eat liver. Despite my conversion to a meat eater, I also love meatless food, and am hell bent on making a meatless paté that is just as delicious and satisfying as the real thing. Well, I completed my task with flying colors: my first batch was a total hit, and loved by all who tried it. It was incredibly savory, hearty, and totally addictive. I ate a thick slice of it today for lunch with a smear of mustard and homemade pickles, in the true French style. Fantastique! The more I cook, the more I realize that I totally dig French cuisine, and all the preserving, fermenting, cooking, seasoning, and baking techniques that the traditional gastronomy employs. Like the rest of the foodies out there right now, I'm about ready to have a marathon viewing session of "The French Chef".
Anyway, I had purchased a beautiful celery root at the farmer's market over the weekend, and in keeping with the French theme of late, decided a celeriac salad was in order. Inspired, I reached into my crisper, grabbed for the humble root, snagging some parsley along the way, and set to work shredding. Keeping on the French kick, I wanted to make a creamy mustardy dressing, like mayonnaise. So, I tried making a batch of Karina's Egg Free Olive Oil Mayo recipe. Because I don't really do xanthan gum, and I didn't feel like adding guar gum or another thickener, my mayo did not become totally stiff. But it did thicken some on its own, and I ended up with a wonderfully creamy, rich, tart, mustardy dressing that was perfect on the blanched celeriac. But one word of warning - if you are looking for a low fat dressing, this isn't it. It is brimming with olive oil; thankfully, a little goes a long way. Anyway, I added a bit of crushed dry tarragon and a pinch of celery seed for an extra punch, and was super happy with the result. The salad tasted fresh and light, the dressing was wonderfully bitey; one of my better celeriac slaw versions for sure. Yum! Hooray for the French; they are a constant source of culinary inspiration.
If you try out celeriac, and enjoy it, here are a number of other tasty looking recipes that use it, try 'em out, alter them to make them work for you, or use them as is! I will warn you that many of these include ingredients that neither you or I can eat, but they are great inspiration.
Karina uses xanthan gum to thicken her Mayo - I opted against it, and ended up with a creamy dressing instead of a thick mayo. Sometime I will try it with a little guar gum, and see if it will thicken with that. Regardless, the thinner but still creamy dressing is great for this salad, but is definitely not like mayonnaise. The olive oil really shines through, so chose a high quality oil with a good flavor. This is very rich, so a little goes a long way. It sounds like a clumsy process, but it is very quick to prepare - 5 minutes tops! Yield 3/4 c.
2 T cashew butter (or sesame tahini) 3-4 T apple cider vinegar 3-4 T cold rice milk (or other milk substitute) 1/2 c olive oil 2 tsp ground mustard pinch salt
In a small mixing bowl or blender place the cashew butter, vinegar, rice milk, sea salt, and mustard, and beat/process to combine.
With the mixer/blender running, add the olive oil in a slow and steady stream. Continue to beat or process until the mixture gets creamy and starts to thicken, adjusting seasoning as necessary with beaters running. Be patient! Mixture will naturally thicken and emulsify.
Place in the refrigerator and chill; mixture will thicken as it chills. Use within 3 days.