I eat a lot (a lot), a lot, A LOT, a lot of lentils. Aside from chickpeas, which I can’t live without, lentils are my favorite little legumes. It’s considered good luck to eat them on New Year’s day; they’re shaped like tiny coins and are supposed to bring you prosperity in the coming year. I can only hope that they’re lucky year-round, cuz given the sheer mass of them that I put down, I should be rollin’ in it!
Is there any stranger vegetable than a celery root? Look at it. It looks like something from outer space; slap a face on it and you have an extraterrestrial teratoma. This is what teratomas look like in my head, but with teeth. Also, they kind of look like these guys. But I digress. Celeriac, as it’s also called, just isn’t going to win any pageants any time soon. Not even with it’s awesome talent, which is clearly being delicious.
Celery root is just that…a root vegetable, crunchy and slightly sweet, that tastes of a mild celery. It’s fabulous mashed with potatoes or used in soups, but until now, those were the only two ways I’d ever had it. Then I got this FABULOUS book by the great and mighty Ottolenghi and oh, the things you learn.
This salad. This. Salad. Earthy lentils, slightly crunchy, sweet celery root, crunchy walnuts all brightened with red wine vinegar and mint. Zomg. Lunch this week has been a my happy time. The hardest part of this salad is peeling the celery root. I would highly suggest just buying a bigger one than you need and just hacking the whole top part with the crazy squiggles right off; you’ll never get the dirt out of there otherwise, so don’t waste you time. After that, just take a regular veggie peeler to it. The original recipe called for hazelnuts and hazelnut oil. Since I had walnuts and walnut oil on hand instead, I went that route. It was so, so good. I imagine that hazelnuts would be divine, but all I’m saying is that you have options. The other substitution I made was to sub regular green lentils for the puy lentils I was supposed to use. Puy lentils are smaller, prettier, and heartier, dissolving less readily, but if you watch your lentils and don’t let them overcook, I promise the good old cheap ones work well too. So come on, eat your lentils, I know you need a little prosperity in your life as much as I do.
Celeriac, lentil, and Walnut Salad
Adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. Serves 4 as a main course.
Don’t be afraid to salt this dish. You’ll probably need to add more than you expect or more than you think you should, but just keep tasting, when you get to the right saltiness, suddenly this salad will go from meh to POP.
1/3 c whole walnuts
1 c lentils (puy or regular brown ones)
3 c water
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
1 1.5 lb celeriac, peeled and cut into “fries” approximately 1.5″ long and 1/4″ in width
2 T olive oil
3 T walnut oil
3 T red wine vinegar
4 T chopped mint
- Heat oven to 350ºF, scatter walnuts on a baking sheet and toast ~8-10 minutes until golden and fragrant. Roughly chop and set aside
- In a small pot, combine the lentils, water, bay leaves, thyme and a big pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook ~15-20 minutes or until lentils are just tender (not mushy!!), drain
- Fill a medium pot with water, salt liberally, and bring to a boil. Drop the celery root in and boil ~ 8-12 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and reserve
- In a large bowl, mix the warm lentils (they must still be warm to soak up the goodness!) with the olive oil, walnut oil, and vinegar. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the celeriac and half the mint and walnuts. Stir, taste, and season with salt again until the flavors explode. Add more vinegar if it seems a little flat
- Sprinkle with the remainder of the mint and nuts and serve. You can eat it warm or room temp