Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ugly Root. Pretty Soup.

Mom will be coming for her annual visit in a few months and I am already making lists of things I need to get together. When she's here we eat a lot of soup. She is particularly fond of butternut squash soup and would eat it every day. I need a little more variety so last year I pushed her to try potato leek, minestrone, spinach and red bean all of which she liked.
I saw someone on a cooking show making celery root puree and thought it would make a good soup. I've never worked with celery root. It's an ugly looking thing. I think celery is one of the most under appreciated flavors. I remember the first time I noticed it. I think I was cutting vegetables for stock and the smell of the celery hit me. I thought of celery as texture and crunch but not much flavor. The smell seemed to elevate my awareness. I decided to experiment with celery root and make a soup.
There are lots of things I could add for flavor but in this first attempt I wanted to make a simple version so I could taste the root. I saut├ęd some Cipollini onion and celery in olive oil. I peeled and boiled the root. My hands smelled like celery for hours afterward. I pureed everything in the Cuisinart. Not much salt needed. I guess the root is salty. Some white pepper. It was very good. It tastes like ... celery. Imagine that. But here's the thing. When you really taste something that you normally ignore it can be such a revelation.
The whole thing amped up my desire for a food mill, which I have wanted for a long time. My soup had some texture that wasn't bad but to make a really smooth soup I'd want to strain it somehow.
There's a long list of things I'd like to experiment with now. I could add leeks and/or potato. Bacon makes everything better. I could add creme, or Creme Fraiche, or sour cream. A few different cheeses come to mind, swiss, cream cheese, Grana is my default. Truffle oil would be a great addition. Chervil would be great. And I can imagine making a puree to serve under roasted meat of any sort.
And it was so easy. Peeling the root is more annoying than difficult. Rough chopping the veggies is nothing. If you cut the root in small pieces it cooks quickly. You just want to be able stick a fork in it. It took about twenty minutes from start to soup.
And it was pretty.

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