native to: Europe
in season here: winter

Celeriac, celery root, knob celery, soup celery, or turnip-rooted celery is a member of the Apiaceae or carrot family and is closely related to the more familiar leaf celery. While the stalks and leaves can be eaten — they’re rather tough and strong-flavored — it’s the root we’re after here. It can keep for months in the fridge as long as you don’t let it dry out, but freezing is not recommended. To use, pare it down to the smooth white flesh and pretend it’s a celery-flavored potato. It’s most commonly mashed with potatoes, but I like it scalloped (recipe will post 4 Nov.).

Celeriac is very low in calories and carbohydrates, and high in anti-oxidants and cancer-fighting compounds. It’s good against osteoporosis because of the vitamin K it provides, and studies suggest it limits neuronal damage in Alzheimer’s. It has some valuable B-complex vitamins and provides lots of minerals: phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, copper, and manganese.

It’s high in water-soluble fiber, making it a good choice if you have cholesterol concerns. It’s also good for the heart and nerves, and can be helpful against urinary problems. Like celery, however, it should only be eaten in moderation by pregnant women and sparingly by people on diuretics or anti-coagulants. If you’re allergic to birch or mugwort pollens, (or celery, of course) you may also react to celeriac.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw celeriac
label-style nutrition information for cooked celeriac
Natural Health Solutions has nutrition information and lots of serving suggestions

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Pumpkin soup with cheese croutons

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 lb. (about 4 cups) pumpkin*, cubed
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 tsp. dried sage
salt to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
8 cups chicken stock

for croutons:
12 slices French bread**
olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
grated cheese of your choice — Parmesan, Gouda, or Cheddar would be good

Saute onion, celery, and garlic in oil over medium heat until softened and lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer 30 minutes or until pumpkin and potato are tender. Puree soup with an immersion blender if available, or in batches in a regular blender. Adjust seasonings and keep warm.

Toast bread under the broiler and brush with oil. Rub with garlic on one side and sprinkle heavily with cheese. Return to broiler and toast until cheese is melted. Fill bowls with soup and top with croutons.

Makes about 6 servings, but I bet it’d freeze.

*Make sure you’re using a pie or sugar pumpkin; jack-o-lantern pumpkins are not particularly palatable. You can also substitute butternut squash if you prefer.

**The original recipe doesn’t specify, but I suspect you want small slices, as from a baguette. This would probably also look great done like French onion soup, with bowl-sized slices of bread toasted, oiled, and garliced like the croutons, but then floated on the soup, topped with slices of cheese, and the bowls put under the broiler on a tray to melt the cheese.

Adapted from: Ghoulish goodies / Sharon Bowers. Storey, 2009. ISBN: 9781603421461

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Maggot stew

This is a great dish for Halloween dinners, but it’s also a very good small-batch stew for all winter. If the orzo “maggots” bother you, substitute something less white and worm-shaped, such as wide whole-wheat noodles or fiori.

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (or to taste)
1 lb. stew beef in 1-inch chunks
small onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cans (14.5 oz.) plain or Italian-style crushed tomatoes
1 can (10.5 oz.) beef broth
1 tsp. thyme (optional)
1 tsp. oregano
3-4 medium carrots, peeled if desired and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen green beans
3/4 cup orzo pasta

Heat oil in stewpot over medium-low. Measure flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder into a plastic bag, drop in stew meat, close bag and shake until meat is well coated. Dump bag into stew pot, add onion, and turn heat to up to medium. Brown meat, turning frequently, until it begins to look crusty. Add tomatoes, broth, thyme, and oregano. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for an hour. Add carrots and beans to the pot and simmer another 45 minutes or until carrots are tender. For best effect, cook the orzo according to package directions, drain in a colander and add to the stew pot. Do not stir in too much. It also works to add dry pasta directly to stew about 5-10 minutes before stew is done, as long as there is enough liquid, and let it cook that way but you won’t get the abundant shining white “maggots” on the surface when you serve it.

Optional ingredients: potatoes, canned garbanzos.

Adapted from: Gross grub / Cheryl Porter.

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Beef and greens soup

1/4-1/3 lb. stew beef, in small cubes (if purchased cut for stew, cut each cube in half)
about 1/2 small onion, diced
drizzle olive oil
plenty of garlic powder or 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed; or to taste
pepper to taste
dash ground ginger (optional)
about 2 cups beef broth
greens from 2-3 beets,* washed, picked over, and larger stems removed; boiled until just wilted and drained, if desired**
generous handful of spinach leaves,* washed and picked over
small handful pasta, rice, or barley, uncooked (optional)

Brown stew meat and onions in just enough oil to keep them from sticking; season with garlic, pepper, and ginger while cooking. When beef is mostly cooked through and aswim in its own drippings, add broth and adjust seasonings if needed. Bring to a boil and simmer until beef is tender, half an hour to an hour in most cases. Add beet greens, spinach, and rice or barley if using, return to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes or so, until greens are mostly cooked. Add pasta if using and continue cooking until all ingredients are done. Serves one hearty appetite as an unaccompanied main meal or two with a side salad and toast.


*The amounts are not critical; use whatever suits your taste and feel free to include other greens such as kale in the mix. You may need to adjust cooking time for tougher greens.

**If you find beet greens to be unpleasantly bitter, try pre-cooking them like this to draw off most of the bitterness.

From: Dana Huffman.

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.