Celery - סלרי
Years ago when Ken and I first moved to New York from Vancouver we were told that we didn't need a vehicle in Manhattan and that it was a bigger liability (nowhere to park) than a benefit. We were counselled, very strongly, to sell it. So we did.
New York is endlessly interesting but it is also a madhouse at times and everyone needs a way to "get out", to escape to a calmer, less crazy environment when the pressure becomes unbearable. However, without a car, leaving the city means taking a bus or train which can be more stressful than staying put - a clear case of aegrescit medendo - ...remedy is worse than the disease.
So for four months we lived without a car and for four months we stayed put. We were both very busy. I started an entirely new track (for me) at NYU and Ken had his hands full with the MFA program at Pratt and a part time job. We were enjoying living in an new city and we were becoming (somewhat) accustomed to the noise. But around the end of month four we began to get itchy. We wanted to go someplace, anyplace away from the city and Fort Tyron Park wasn't going to cut it. We needed a car.
We never considered renting one. I don't know why, but we didn't. We looked to buy one and we found an old Alfa Berlina 1750 for sale. It wasn't a hard decision. We bought it.
The first trip was to Rockland Country for a family Bar Mitzvah. We got lost. We were late (and heard about it). But it was exhilarating driving up the Palisades Parkway. Free again.
A month later we had a big blow up. The city was making me crazy and I was making Ken crazy because of my craziness. So at 11 p.m. Ken suggested we get in the car and go somewhere. With no destination in mind we followed that same route from the month before and found ourselves on Route 17 heading north. We kept driving through the night until we ended up in Montreal very early the next morning.
We found a place to stay in Outremont. I don't know how we found it, but it was great. We made a pilgrimage to Rue Marianne and stood outside Leonard Cohen's house. We walked around Rue St. Denis and Rue St. Laurent and looked in the shop windows. We ate at Bistro L'Express. We only stayed one night, but it was magical.
On the menu that night were sorrel soup and celeriac remoulade - a cold salad of shredded celery root in a mustard cream dressing. I ordered the salad it because I was curious. I had seen it on the menus in France but never had the chance to try it because restaurants were off limits when I was travelling - no funds for such things.
Maybe it was the atmosphere. Maybe it was the sense or freedom or maybe it was the quality of the salad, but I fell in love with celery that night.
I didn't indulge this passion for many years. Celery in New York looked and tasted like pale green water. A handy vehicle for sour cream based dips. And it was years before celeriac began to show up in the vegetable markets.
But when I moved to Tel Aviv, Avi was working as a private chef. One of his signature dishes was (and maybe still is) Parsnip and Celeriac Purée. Heavenly, rich and creamy and redolent with the same heady smell of celery that I remembered from Bistro L'Express. The secret - or at least one of the secrets - is the quality of the produce.
I started to use celery again. And as is evident of many of the winter soups I have shared, celery is an undertone in many of them.
Two days ago it was Cinco de Mayo. It was Tuesday and a particularly Mexican holiday and Ken loves them - a perfect trifecta - so I made tacos and green rice. But I also made a soup because I had 4 large, beautiful heads of celery root and I wanted to use them at their peak.
I was thinking of making celeriac and potato soup. That's yummy, but it is a bit heavy on the cream and more suitable for December. I started to cook without having a clear idea of what I was going to make. Tasting, tasting and tasting. And in the end if came to me - add more celery.
As with all the recipes it will be also be published later under a Creative Commons License. The attribution is important to me. If you enjoy the soup, let me know and don't forget the shout-out.
BT's Celery and Celeriac Soup
1 small leek
1 medium yellow onion
4 heads celeriac (celery root)
1 bulb fennel
1 small potato or 1 tuber of Jerusalem artichoke (used only for body)
1 small red bell pepper
2 tablespoon (30 grams) crushed new garlic
2 tablespoons (30 grams) grain mustard
2 teaspoons (8 grams) harissa
5 large ribs celery with leaves (preferably taken from the top of the root)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) ghee or coconut oil
1 tablespoon (15 grams) dried Greek thyme
Juice of 1 lemon
fennel fronds 1 small bunch parsley
8 cups (1.8 ltr) filtered water
freshly ground black pepper
Peel celeriac and place in acidulated water to prevent discoloring
Wash leek, onion, and red pepper and rough chop
Separate stalks with fennel fronds and reserve
Remove core from fennel bulb and rough chop
Place heavy gauge pot on medium heat
Add fat (ghee or coconut oil)
When fat is hot add garlic, harissa and mustard and cook 30 seconds
Add leek, onions, fennel and pepper to fat
Turn flame down to medium low
Sauté vegetables until leek is translucent
Add thyme and salt and pepper
Add 7 cups of water - reserving 1 cup
Chop celeriac into cubes and add to pot
Bring heat back up to medium
Peel potato or artichoke, cube and add to pot
When soup begins to bubble, cover with lid and turn flame to low
Simmer for 20 minutes
While soup is cooking clean celery ribs
Dice the celery ribs into small pieces and reserve
Remove pot from heat and let cool down
When soup is no longer hot purée soup until it is smooth
Add lemon juice
Add cream if desired
Leave soup to continue cooling
Boil remaining cup of water
Into a blender add celery ribs, parsley, fennel fronds and boiled water
Purée vegetables until liquified
Add the blended fresh celery mixture to the soup
Taste for salt and pepper
Refrigerate for 2 hours
Serve soup cold or room temperature with creme fraiche, lemon zest and a shot of hot sauce!
I asked Ken whether he like the soup and he said "not so much. I really don't like celery"