Celery root is a disturbingly ugly vegetable with tan skin and a gnarly, knobby top. Once the top is cut away and the skin peeled, it reveals creamy, slightly starchy flesh, with the sharp, but delicate flavor of celery. It is generally served roasted, braised or boiled – mostly in purées and soups, like this one that I served at Eastern Market last fall.
Last week, Dan from Agora Farms suggested trying it raw in a coleslaw with poppy seed dressing. I never turn down the advice of someone who knows his produce well enough to check the pH of a melon to see if it’s at the perfect stage of ripeness, so I headed into the kitchen.
The shredded celery root was delicate and easily overpowered by other flavors. Researching poppy seed dressings, I discovered two types: oil-based and mayonnaise or yogurt-based. The lighter-flavored, oil-based option was definitely the right choice. They also contain a lot of sugar, which again sounded overpowering. The milder sweetness and floral notes of honey seemed a better choice, and played perfectly with the herbal flavor of the celery root.
The finished product was fantastic. Definitely a keeper. And remember, Dan gives good advice. In fact, his whole team does. Ask for some this weekend.
Celery Root Slaw
The texture of the raw celery root is a bit grainy when you first prepare it. Give this dish a little time to come together in the fridge – at least a half hour. It is even better made a day ahead.
- 3 tbs grated onion
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika
- 1 tsp poppy seeds
- 1-2 tbs honey
- 1/4 cup Sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil*
- 2 cups grated celery root
- 1 tbs chopped fennel fronds or tarragon
- 1 tbs chopped parsley
- Begin dressing: Whisk together onion, mustard, paprika, poppy seeds, honey, vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Toss together celery root, parsley, and fennel fronds or tarragon in a medium bowl.
- Finish dressing: whisk in oil in a thin, steady stream. It will form a creamy emulsion. Season to taste with salt, and pepper. Adjust vinegar and honey to achieve desired sweetness/acidity.
- Toss salad with a couple tablespoons of dressing. Add more to taste. The celery root is distinct, but mild and you don’t want to cover up the flavor. Let rest for thirty minutes before serving.
* “Why not olive oil?” you ask, with the derisive scorn we all reserve for evil oils that come in large, plastic bottles. Olive oil is a powerful flavor. Vegetable oil is fairly neutral. Grape seed oil is neutral as well, and would be a great alternative.