Celeraic (also known as celery root) is one of two varieties of celery that has been cultivated over the years from wild celery that is native to Europe and parts of temperate Asia. In celeriac, the base of the plant is enlarged and looks like a gnarly root vegetable. Don’t be turned off by its looks, as it has a deeper and sweeter flavor than the familiar celery ribs. Celeriac can be eaten both cooked and grated raw for salads. For cooking purposes, this root vegetable takes well to soups, purees, and gratins. The root needs to be scrubbed well and peeled. To peel the root, cut the top and bottom ends off to create a stable surface and then using your knife, cut away the peel in a downward motion. If you have a heavy duty peeler, you can try using that if the root is not to knobby. Cut pieces turn brown quickly, so place cut pieces in a bowl of water acidulated with lemon juice or vinegar. If you prefer to use the entire vegetable, any pairings from peeling can be put in a vegetable stock. Take time to remove and save the green ribs before storing, which can be added to stocks or soups. The root will store for several weeks in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. Celeriac goes well with butter, cream, walnuts, hazelnuts, Gruyere cheese, parsley, mustard, potatoes, apples, mushrooms, and wild rice.
The peppers this week include a mix of paprika, Anaheim, and Italian sweet peppers. Fresh peppers do best stored in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. Sweet peppers go well in salads and stir fries, while the hotter ones do well cooked.
Paprika peppers can range from mild to hot and this variety falls in the middle. While native to Eastern Europe, many varieties are now grown throughout the world. These small red peppers would make a great addition to stir fries, breakfast scrambles, eggs dishes, pasta dishes and of course, any Hungarian dish.
Anaheim peppers (also known as chile Verde del Norte) are widely grown throughout northwest Mexico. These light green chiles are long, taper at the base and are usually mild in flavor. These peppers are great in chili, fajitas, burritos, or stuffed and baked. As with any pepper, their flavor varies, so please taste test a tiny bit to see how much heat the pepper carries. If you are sensitive to spicy food, you will need to remove any seeds and white ribs from the pepper before cooking. Be aware of cutting hot peppers with bare hands, as you need to wash your hands well before touching any sensitive body areas! I worked with a man who cut a lot of hot peppers with bare hands, used the restroom, and then had to go home because he was in so much pain!
How to Roast a Pepper
Place the whole chili over the open flame of a gas stove or grill, and turn it from time to time until the skin is blistered and brown. If you want the peppers to be soft and slightly smoky, roast them until the skins are completely charred. If you want to peel the peppers without cooking them too much, cut off the top of the pepper, then slice in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and veins, and press down on each half to flatten. Roast them 5 to 6 inches under the oven broiler until the skins are wrinkled but not charred, 10-20 minutes. Once done charring the skin, immediately place peppers in a plastic bag or in a bowl covered with a plate to steam. Let steam for at least 15 minutes to loosen the skins. Use your hands or a paper towel to gently rub off the skin and don’t worry if not every fleck is removed. Try to avoid rinsing them under water, as you will wash away the good flavor developed during roasting. Once peeled, cut open whole peppers and remove any seeds and ribs.
Celeriac and Potato Gratin (serves 4-6)
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
1 garlic clove and butter for the dish
1 celery root, scrubbed well
1 pound potatoes
½ cup cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 375. Rub a 2-quart gratin dish with the garlic and then the butter.
Peel the celery root and put the pairings in a 3-quart saucepan with 3 cups of water and whatever remains of the garlic. Set a steamer over the top and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high. Quarter the celery root, and then slice it ½ inch thick. Steam (make sure the steamer is covered) for 5 minutes and remove to a large bowl.
Peel the potatoes or scrub well, slice them into thin rounds, and steam for 5 minutes or until tender, then add them to the celery root. Strain the cooking liquid, measure 1 ¼ cups, and mix it with the cream and mustard. Pour it over the vegetables and toss well. Season with ¾ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the vegetables to the gratin dish, smooth them out, and cover with the cheese. Bake until bubbling and browned on top, about 30 minutes.