Everyday Gourmet2/26/09

Scare away winter blues

Feb. 26, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Yes, the light is changing and the days are getting longer, but a harsh fact of northern living is that we still have a lot of winter to go.

What can we purchase in the produce department to perk up our spirits as we whittle our waistlines waiting for spring? How about making friends with that scary, hairy softball knob, celery root? This is my favorite winter vegetable and it suffers, rightly so, from a beauty-and-the-beast syndrome. I’ll admit that it is downright frightening to plop that monster into your grocery cart, but give it a chance, Belle — you’ll be glad you did.

After peeling away the skin of the celery root (also called celeriac) you’ll reveal something that looks like a potato. Shred it raw in a food processor or grate it by hand — you’ll be rewarded with ribbons of snow white, crunchy, fresh tasting slaw. Mixed with lemon aioli and flat-leafed parsley, you can practically taste spring coming around the corner. Lemony Celeriac Salad pairs beautifully with late winter braised meats as well as lighter entrees such as grilled salmon.

Lemony Celeriac Salad

1. Peel 1 hearty knob of celery root, shred it and place in a prep bowl.

2. Lemon aioli: In a small processor, finely mince 4 garlic cloves and the zest of 1 lemon. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard, the juice of the zested lemon, and 1 cup of mayo. Process for 30 seconds. Add kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste.

3. Lightly fold the lemon aioli over the celery root. Top with several handfuls of clean, dry, de-stemmed flat leaf parsley. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic and store in fridge. Salad can be made up to one day ahead; serves 8.

Warm Spinach Salad

Another fun veggie combination is a warm salad of fresh spinach and Brussels sprouts seared in brown butter and topped with a sprinkle of toasted walnuts and blue cheese. This savory side is superb with grilled steak or chicken; for a main course just add a bit of chopped bacon or sausage.

1. Prep 15 to 20 Brussels sprouts by slicing off each bottom and peeling off a few layers of leaf. Place in a glass bowl, cover and microwave for 3 minutes on high (do ahead).

2. In a large sauté pan, toast 2 ounces of walnuts for 40 seconds; reserve in a small bowl. When cool, gently break up the walnuts by hand.

3. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a hot sauté pan and lightly brown the butter. Add the Brussels sprouts; cover and sear for 2 minutes, shaking pan often. Add 4 generous handfuls of fresh spinach; cover and turn off the heat. Set for 5 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Place salad in a serving dish and top with sea salt, fresh pepper, walnuts and crumbled blue cheese to taste. Serves 4; doubles nicely.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com