I loved hearing how you decide to share your blog with your friends and co-workers after my last post. As Joanne said, sometimes there are clues that a blog may be lurking in the background, or at least a true love of cooking. Rarely repeated lunches, guilty as charged. Beyond that, I try not to share my profound love of beans with just anyone. I don’t want to be perceived as preachy once I start talking about my food choices (no meat, dairy, fish, refined flours, refined sugars, white rice and potatoes, etc). You know you are my friend when I discuss the virtues of lentils over chickpeas. Although walking into my kitchen, with its rows of dried beans are a quick giveaway. If you make it up into my study, then my collection of cookbooks is a dead giveaway that I love to cook.
I have a lot of cookbooks. A lot. Recently, I won a subscription to Eat Your Books, a website that indexes cookbook recipes for easier searching. Sadly, my most loved cookbooks (namely my vegan faves) have not yet been indexed (the scourge of Tess’ cookbooks being not-so-mainstream). However, this allows me to check out some of my other cookbooks, that I would not have pulled off the shelf simply because they are not vegan. The best recipes are those that are accidentally vegan. They aren’t trying to be something meaty.
I recently made a delicious celeriac and white bean puree from Terry’s new cookbook. I know her cookbook will get lambasted for using the most isoteric ingredients, but I love it because my kitchen is stocked with all things isoteric and I have bought even more pantry items! I also push myself to try new vegetables. Despite hating celery, I scoped out celeriac, also known as celery root. Sunny’s for the win, after the St Lawrence Market was out that week. And yes, it is now my newest favourite root vegetable. An underdog if you ever looked at it; it is a white/grey/dirty thing all gnarled up in roots. But as a non-starchy vegetable root (not part of the cruciferous gang, sadly), it tastes like a cross between a potato and has the nice parts of celery: a sweet, yet subtle earthy celery taste. It tastes a bit nutty with hints of lemon, too.
So, when I was left with half a celeriac, I turned to Eat Your Books. I found an intriguing celeriac schnitzel in my German cookbook (here‘s Bittman’s version), lots of mashes, a lot of soups, some slaws and salads. I will have to get more celeriac to try all the recipes! However, this time I was drawn to a vegan-friendly lentil salad with celeriac from Ottlenghi’s Plenty (similar recipe here).
Of course, I adapted the recipe. Instead of boiling the celeriac, I opted to roast it. I also decreased the dressing, making it less oily and I tried to play up the hazelnut flavour by pairing the hazelnut oil with a mild rice vinegar (it would be interesting to try this with a balsamic, me thinks). However, the majority of the hazelnut taste came from the roasted hazelnuts, instead. I liked the juxtaposition of warming hazelnut with the roasted celeriac, earthy lentils and bright mint. It is a nice, unassuming salad and a great way to introduce someone to celeriac.
Roasted Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnuts and Mint
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and coarsely chopped (or leave them whole which is what I preferred)
1 cup Puy lentils, rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth or water
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large celeriac (1.5 lbs), peeled and cut into 1-cm cubes
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp hazelnut oil or your oil of choice
2 tbsp rice vinegar or your vinegar of choice
4 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Place the diced celeriac on a baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil and a little salt and roast until tender, approximately 20 minutes. When done, set aside to cool.
2. Put the lentils, broth/water, bay leaves and thyme sprigs in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but not falling apart. Drain in a sieve. Remove and discard the bay leaves and the woody sprigs.
3. In a large bowl, mix the hot lentils (make sure they don’t cool down – lentils soak up flavours much better when they’re piping hot) with the remainder of the oil, vinegar, a few grinds of black pepper and plenty of salt (at least 1/2 tsp). Add the celeriac, stir, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
4. If you’re serving this straight away, stir in half the mint and the hazelnuts, then pile in a big heap on to a suitable serving dish. Drizzle the remaining hazelnut oil over the top, then garnish with the rest of the mint and nuts. If you’re planning on serving it cold, wait for the lentil and celeriac mixture to cool down, taste again, then make a final adjustment to the seasoning. Add the rest of the hazelnut oil, the mint and the nuts just as you do when serving it hot.