Thursday, February 28, 2013
It’s not that I don’t love me some root vegetables. I truly do. I’ll roast butternut squash, simmer acorn squash in curries and nosh on potatoes all winter long. It seems that the best preparation of these foods lends itself so appropriately to this cold and dark time of year. My go-to means of making veggies from the first chill of November to the last cruel snow of April (knock wood) is to dice, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and roast in a hot oven ‘til tender. And these are good things. They are hearty; they taste good. They’re delicious on salads or pureed into creamy soups, but then you just reach a point where you’re sort of over it, right?
This slaw is a means of making right with root vegetables at the precise time of year when I’m ready to kick them to the curb. Inspired by a recipe I heard on NPR last week, I thought the idea of taking two root veggies and leaving them raw for a nice dose of crunch would be a super fresh way to jazz up my soup-ed out winter palate. Celery root, kind of like jicama, is more about adding texture than any kind of big flavor punch. It tastes a tidbit like its more familiar green stalks, but milder, and has a great crisp texture that balances out the more full flavored fennel. A little bit of fat from the mayo, a zing of lemon juice and some toasty, crunchy nuts made for a really yummy winter slaw that gave me the crunch I have been so desperately seeking since the days got darker. There’s a light.
CRUNCHY WINTER SLAW
(adapted a bit from here)
1 bulb fennel
1 celery root
½ cup walnuts, toasted
Juice from 1 small lemon
1 ½ tbs. mayonnaise
The ideal equipment for homemade slaw is a mandolin slicer* (I have an Oxo and it’s pretty rad). Set oven to 350, scatter walnuts on a baking sheet and set to roast until fragrant and deep brown colored (about 15 minutes). While the nuts roast prepare your vegetables. Setup your slicer with the julienne blade. If you don’t have a mandolin slicer, don’t fret, just use a good sharp chef’s knife to thinly slice both vegetables into thin strips; it will take a bit more time. Cut the bulb end off your fennel, reserving the stalks and fronds. Quarter the bulb, peeling off any dinged up, dirty outer edges and slice the center of the root out from the middle. To prepare celery root: use a handheld vegetable peeler to peel off the gnarly outer skin. You will trim quite a bit off, perhaps even using your knife to trim off particularly pitted sections of the skin. Julienne both fennel and celery root using your slicer or knife and place in a medium sized bowl.
Remove the nuts from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, then coarsely chop and add to the bowl. Add lemon juice, a generous drizzle of olive oil and mayonnaise; toss together gently with tongs to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and feel free to adjust the dressing by adding a touch more olive oil or lemon juice if necessary. Garnish with fennel fronds. Serve immediately alongside grilled or roasted chicken; seared shrimp or fish. Will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days in an airtight container.
* Safety warning: be careful using a mandolin slicer, you can seriously cut yourself on those things. Every time I take mine out I recall the story my friend Kristen told me of how she sliced her finger open on one while preparing her very first Thanksgiving for her future in laws. In an effort to be brave, she spent most of the subsequent meal with her right arm raised above her head to prevent too much blood loss, assuring everyone she was fine (she wasn’t, she got stitches). It’s a (now) hilarious story about her dedication to hosting but a scary enough lesson for me to respect the mandolin for the sharp, sharp weapon that it is. Use your palm, not fingertips, or use the guide that comes with it.