As you know the Accidental Locavore is a fan of celery root and it was widely available this fall at my CSA. I found this recipe for Creamy Celery Root Soup on the Food Republic website and wanted to give it a shot. I stayed pretty true to their recipe, which makes a big pot of soup.
- 2 large celery roots, peeled and cut into ½”cubes
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
- 2 large cloves, garlic, chopped
- 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup white wine
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Preheat oven to 375°. Toss celery root with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl until coated, then arrange in an even layer on a large baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until completely soft, golden-brown and caramelized (this can be done ahead of time).
Heat the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot, over medium heat, then sauté the onions and garlic until translucent and just starting to color, 8-10 minutes. Add the roasted celery root, stir well to combine and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the stock and wine to the pot, bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then transfer to a blender and purée in batches (or use an immersion blender). Return soup to pot over low heat and stir in cream. Heat until soup is warmed through. Serve garnished with the toasted pine nuts and enjoy.
My verdict: Although not difficult, this seemed like a lot of work. Maybe it was just that I wasn’t thrilled with the results and found myself alone in the kitchen with a pile of large pans to wash. I ended up simmering it for about another 10-15 minutes to reduce it a little further as mine was rather thin. Still looking for more flavor I added a little cumin (maybe ½ teaspoon) to it at the end and tossed some croutons in my bowl. What’s good about this recipe is that it could be adopted for any roasted vegetable and, as I did, you can easily roast the veggies ahead of time. The next time I make this (or some version thereof), I would definitely add some garlic to the roasting pan and puree it in with the soup. Since I have an immersion blender, I skipped the cooling step and just pureed it in the soup pot (definitely not recommended if you’re using a non-stick pot). The roasted celery root, on it’s own, was really good, so remember that for a side dish!
Maybe you’ve wondered how someone could be an Accidental Locavore and not have pages and pages of recipes for winter squash. It’s pretty simple. While an occasional serving of squash is fine for the most part, it’s around way too long (seasonally) and not terribly interesting. An occasional bowl of soup or a simple roasted preparation and I’m good until the asparagus comes up. But since it wouldn’t be fall without a bowl of soup, here’s the one winter squash recipe I come back to time after time. Serves 8 and the hardest part is peeling the squash. Since you’re going to be pureeing it at the end, chopping skills aren’t critical here.
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 5 ½ cups chicken broth (or vegetable stock if you’re vegetarian)
- 8 cups winter squash (about 3 pounds), peeled and cut into 1″ pieces (feel free to mix and match your squash-acorn and butternut work well, and/or substitute pumpkin)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
- 1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh sage
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 24 1/4″ thick slices from a baguette
- 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth, squash, thyme and sage, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
Puree soup in blender, food processor or with a stick blender (use a deep pot) in batches. Return soup to pot. Stir in cream and sugar, bring to a simmer. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
For the garnish: Preheat broiler. Butter 1 side of each slice of bread. Arrange bread, buttered side up on a baking sheet. Broil until golden, about 1 minute. Turn over. Sprinkle with cheese, thyme and sage, salt and pepper. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 minute.
Ladle soup into bowls, top with croutons, serve and enjoy!
My verdict: Most squash dishes are too sweet for me. The croutons save this from being overly sweet. If I’m feeling lazy, I just toss some store-bought croutons in the soup and sprinkle some grated cheese over it. You can also do a couple of bread slices at a time in a toaster oven. Generally I use Gruyere, but a pepper jack or even some crumbled blue cheese would be fun. I’ve also been known to add a dash of Sriracha or harissa into the pot to give the soup a little kick.
Tortilla soup has got to be one of the Accidental Locavore’s favorites – probably because you can add so many goodies to it and take it from good to great in no time. I use this recipe from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday as a jumping-off point. Serves 6.
For the soup:
- 1 large dried pasilla chile, stemmed and seeded
- One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted if you can find them)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, cut in half and sliced 1/4” thick
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- Salt to taste
- 1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into ½” cubes (I use thighs)
- 1 teaspoon epazote (optional, use fresh if you have it)
- 1-2 chipotles in adobo, chopped (optional)
For the garnishes:
- 1 bag regular tortilla chips
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted, cut into 1/4” cubes
- 1 ½ cups shredded/grated Monterey Jack, or cheddar cheese
- 1 lime cut into quarters for serving
- ½ cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
- Mexican crema or sour cream
Toast the chile in a small frying pan on medium heat for a minute on each side. Break it into pieces and put in a blender jar or the work bowl of a food processor along with the tomatoes.
Heat the oil in a large 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Scoop out the onions with a slotted spoon, leaving most of the oil behind in the pan. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the onions to the tomatoes and process until smooth.
Return the pan to the heat. Add the mixture from the blender and cook, stirring until thick, like tomato paste, about 6 minutes. Add the broth, epazote, chicken, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with the salt, add the chipotles if you want some additional heat.
To serve: In each bowl, crunch up a handful of tortilla chips, add the soup and garnish with anything (or everything) on the garnish list. Serve and enjoy!
Notes: This is a pretty flexible recipe. I used chicken thighs because I think they’re more flavorful. You can use breasts or even a left-over rotisserie chicken. Same for the pasilla chile –substitute any dried chile you have. I like to add a couple more tortilla chips halfway through my bowl, so there’s a mix of textures. Usually we leave out the crema or sour cream, but for some reason (another recipe I was playing with?) there was crema in the fridge, so this time it was one of the garnishes.
When faced recently with the promise of a long day without food, what was the Accidental Locavore to do? Why, cook, of course! Come on, you know it beats staring longingly at the Food Network. Before checking into the hospital (to have work done on my hand) I decided to put a batch of split pea soup in the slow cooker, that way it would be there waiting for me. Added bonus, my apartment would smell wonderful! There were some beautiful smoked ham hocks I had brought back from Maine, so they went in with the usual carrot, celery and split pea suspects. The other benefit of using the slow cooker for this was that you could just dump everything in and leave it to work its magic. This made a lot of soup, and like a lot of things slowly cooked, was better the next day.
- 1 pound dried split peas
- 1 good sized carrot, diced (if you’re a carrot & celery fan, feel free to add a couple more)
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- ½ cup onion, chopped
- 2 smoked ham hocks
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- 1 1/2 quarts chicken stock (you can use any kind of stock, or even just water or a combo)
- Salt (go easy, the ham may be plenty salty) and pepper, to taste
Put all ingredients in a large slow cooker, in the order listed. Cover and cook on high for 8 hours, until the peas are tender and the ham falls off the bone. When the soup has cooked, remove the ham hocks, shred the meat and add it back to the pot (toss the bones). Stir to mix well, serve and enjoy!
My verdict: What I forgot, was that I wouldn’t have the use of my left hand so when the Locavore got home, although the soup was smelling delicious, there was no way of one-handedly shredding steamy ham hocks! I let the soup cool overnight and very awkwardly worked on it the next morning. The soup was very good. I’m not a big fan of celery and carrots, so I only used one of each (for concept). Although the recipe said you didn’t have to soak the peas the night before, it would probably have been a good idea. What I might do the next time, would be to toss the split peas and the chicken stock in the slow cooker the night before, just to let them soak, then add everything else the next morning and cook. Having really good ham hocks made it taste the way I like split pea soup, smoky and meaty.