Friday, September 23, 2011

apple celeriac soup

This is not the first time I have been inspired by a celeriac root.
It wasn't just the soup. It was the day. And although the day was filled with all sorts of other agenda items, this celeriac root was hanging out around my thoughts like a muse. If I am to be entirely honest, I must tell you that it was not one, but two celeriac roots, and I had brought them home from the market on Saturday in the hope of this very inspiration. I didn't know what they would be, but I knew I would love them.

There was also a leek, and an imposing pile of apples in the kitchen. And throughout the day, I thought about these soups of fall made of ingredients that I never have in such abundance save for now. A bunch of leeks in the supermarket in February, and I'll be out five bucks- more if I fall for the organic. Apples are so precious for their place in the lunchbox, and at other times in the year, I would never think of disappearing them into a soup. But right now? It's all abundant. The vegetables that I love and crave and wring my hands over in the supermarket all winter are in my fridge right now. They are all in my fridge. They come from the farm, or the market, or my very own garden. There is no end to the celeriac.

What happened on that day was this: As I got through this and that, and I thought about celeriac through it all, I dreamed about making dinner. Just that dreaming felt like an accomplishment in itself.  Because all too often, even though I love to cook and I love to eat and I love to feed these people I love, I feel heavy when I try to plan it out. I sigh, and I think about the 30 minutes I've got before this meeting, or about how so and so won't want to eat this, or about how I just wish it wasn't my night to cook. I end up cooking fast, with my attention half on the stove and half on everything else. I have created a quick weeknight meal, a meal in 30 minutes! and some of the time, I'll be damned if I even remember what it was a few days later. Quick, weeknight non-memorable meals. Hooray.

But on this day, I set up at 4:30, and I turned on NPR. I poured myself a glass of wine. I did the residual dishes from the day. And then I made dinner.

I'm sure there was chaos involved. It was, after all, the hour before dinner. But I was so happy to be happy cooking. The slowness and luxury of actually feeling the desire to be there made me float through it. It made me pause to do a braid for Rosie's doll without any hesitation.  It made me pause to cut Sadie an apple to tide her over. It made me pause to give Joey that hug that I want to give him at that time of day. A long conversational hug, punctuated by a real kiss.

Do you know the study that a Japanese man did on emotions and water? Someone told me about it when I was nursing the girls, and we were talking about whether the emotions we feel while nursing affect the actual quality of the milk. If you've never heard about it, go take a peek. There's all sorts of controversy over his methods and conclusions, but whatever surrounds it, I think that it holds extreme merit as a philosophical idea. 

Essentially, he says that water responds to the emotions that we put into it. It makes sense, right? And as most of what we are and live with are mostly water, this means more than just talking to a glass of water. It means that the water in my children and it myself will behave differently depending on what emotions I shoot at it. Stay with me here! Because I only bring it up because not only are we and our children made of water, and so much of the world made of water. Let's get to business and get down to what really matters. That's right. I'm talking about your soup.

How many days do I cook dinner in a half panic? It's a rough time of the day, and everyone needs me, and I'm not always my best self. I may not be talking to the soup, but I'm talking around the soup, and at the air.  I move fast and I burn the bottom of the pot, I burn my hand, I break a glass, or all of the above. What that soup gets is a whole lot of profanity. But on these other days, when I love every moment of it, and I am inspired by what goes into that pot? I'll say it. I'm sending love into that pot, and that in itself seems to make a damn fine soup.

I'll leave that one out of the ingredients list. Because if I only cooked when I was calm buddha mom, we wouldn't eat all that much. But even without it, the apple and celeriac might pull you through. And after all, I think it's a soup that's hard not to love.

Apple Celeriac Soup

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium leeks, washed and sliced (using all of the white and half the green)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 medium apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
2 medium celeriac roots, peeled and roughly cubed
8 cups water
1 cup milk
optional (but fabulous, if you have it): piment d'espelette, for serving

In a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil together. Let it brown, just slightly. Add the chopped leeks, garlic, and onion, and cook, stirring often, until the veggies are soft and shiny, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and nutmeg and continue to cook for another few minutes.
Add the celeriac, apples, and water. Cover and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples and celeriac start to fall apart, 30 to 40 minutes.
If you have an immersion blender, stick it into the pot and blend until smooth. Otherwise, transfer to an upright blender in batches and return to the pot. Add the milk, and taste to adjust salt and add pepper.
Serve with healthy dusting of piment d'espelette, if you have it.  A nice smoky paprika will also do the trick.


  1. Thanks for sharing your story about chaotic weeknight dinner prep--you aren't the only one! I love having the time to savor the art of cooking, but on a weeknight it sometimes just feels like a whirlwind. Love the combo of apple & celeriac!

  2. I know the feeling of not being inspired to cook and then the exhilaration of creating something, anything and being proud of the results. It's so true that our words have real effect on our selves, the people around us and our situations. Thank you for sharing this story and this recipe. I'll remember it the next time it seems like there's nothing in the world that I want to cook. And then I'll remember that it's cooking that I love most in the world.