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I met celery’s ugly sister this week — her name is celeriac.  In the US, she is better known as celery root.

One would barely associate them together — celery’s leggy limbs and fresh coloring is always eye catching.  She’s the petite soprano that gets the solos every year.  Her sister has a stout and bulbous figure, washed out color, and the only thing she’s remembered for is her solid oompa beat in the tuba section.  If not buried, certainly forgotten — celery root is the tuba player of vegetables.

I’ve been browsing Yotam Ottolenghi’s highly acclaimed Plenty and wanted to try one of his recipes.  On my weekly perusal through Reading Terminal market, I collected the listed ingredients, including our sister root.

When I first stumbled upon Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi, I thought, “Big deal, a cookbook full of vegetable dishes.”  Despite its praised reviews, I’ve been attracted to other London restauranteurs’ cookbooks, like this couple who recorded their culinary adventures while living in Andalusia or the Brit who thinks he has a handle on Italian fare.

I was sold on Ottolenghi’s book when I paged through it in Barnes and Noble.  Exceptional photography, innovative flavor combinations and interesting ingredients won me over pretty quickly.  The recipes are a reflection of the food he ate as a child: “European at home and Middle Eastern all around.”

So I tried my culinary skill at a recipe entitled ‘celeraic and lentils with hazelnut and mint’.  Breaking down the root made me a little more appreciative of her.  While peeling away the knobby, uneven skin, familar wafts of bright fresh celery filled my nose.  Meanwhile, aromas from the thyme and bay leaf filled the kitchen as they simmered with green lentils on the stove.  These flavors married well in the final dish.  Toasted hazelnuts added a coarse texture with subtle smokey notes.  Mint brightened the dish as red wine vinegar contributed its distinct zing.  Olive oil’s silky texture rounded out all the flavors on my palate.  Although this dish was not conventional for my kitchen, I’m looking forward to trying more recipes from Ottolenghi’s cookbook.

This week’s warmer weather inspired me to start a potted herb garden.  What do I know about cultivating herbs?  Well, I could tell you just as much about the Phillies as I could about growing an herb garden.  I have friends that would be disappointed by that confession.

I got a little over-excited at this project — seven little pots line my bedroom window.  Four plants I’m growing from seeds, and three I purchased together in a starter pot.  I had no reason for buying already-grown plants other than boosting my gardening morale.

On particularly sunny days, I take my herb garden outside to get extra sun exposure.  The sweet basil and red basil is already budding.

Reader, I’ll only keep you posted on positive results on my garden.  I may stick to market-bought herbs if this project doesn’t bode well.

-A

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