Better Living Through Local Foods
It may be hard to imagine getting excited about the lowly celery root – celeriac is a variety of celery cultivated for its root, that doesn’t look tasty at all. That is, unless you’ve tried my friend Carol’s celery blue cheese risotto. You see, Carol and Matt are friends I’ve known for probably a decade, and they’ve been foodies and locavores long before eating local was trendy and hip. Carol got me into the Bay End Farm CSA (before there was a waiting list), Matt hunts for deer and they eat his own venison; they also have a source for local eggs and goat milk.
Carol presented a very memorable risotto cooking class to our book club a couple years back. There was a standard chicken & peas recipe (for the kids!) which I make regularly, and for the adults – celery risotto, which has clearly stayed in my mind. To follow is her recipe I adapted to include celeriac. She is an expert on knowing what to stock your kitchen with and trust me, you will not find any “high fructose corn syrup” in her pantry!
On the same day I purchased the celeriac from Marta McFarland’s Rise N Shine Farm at the Marshfield Farmers Market, I also bought some Great Hill Blue Cheese with this exact dish in mind. For those who like raw milk, non-homogenized, local cheese Great Hill Blue is it, made right in Marion, MA. www.greathillblue.com Look for it as Farmer’s Markets including Marshfield and Plymouth.
Celery Risotto with Great Hill Blue
1 celery root (or large bulb of celeriac)
2-3 stalks of celery and preferably with the leaves, organic is best!
1 medium (or ½ large) peeled and chopped onion, about 1 cup
32 oz. Chicken broth (Trader Joe’s organic is wonderful, homemade even better)
1 Cup Arborio rice (I also use Trader Joe’s)
1T olive oil
(1 T butter – optional)
1 Cup of crumbled Great Hill blue cheese (Carol used gorgonzola and it was fantastic)
Peel the celery root and chop into about ¾ inch dice, peel and chop the onion, and chop about 3 large celery stalks into same size dice. Chop up about 1/3 cup of the leaves if you have them and set aside.
Place all of the chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. In a separate heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil (or just heat about 2 T olive oil if avoiding butter). When hot, add the onions and cook until translucent; then add the chopped celery, the celeriac, and the rice. Once the rice seems coated with the oil, pour about 1 cup of hot chicken stock at a time into the risotto, stirring along the way, consistently (but constantly is not really necessary, contrary to popular myth about risotto).
Season with celery salt as the rice cooks, to taste, and keep adding broth every time the rice has absorbed all of the liquid. When it seems almost done (you can taste a kernel of rice to see if “al dente” or just notice if the broth is almost gone…) add the celery leaves and then add the blue cheese.
It’s nice to have it be a bit liquidy because the rice will continue to absorb liquid after it’s cooked. Carol suggested I reserve some blue cheese to pass for sprinkling on top, and then drizzle some green extra virgin olive oil (obviously not local but I bought mine at the winter Plymouth Farmer’s market) on each individual bowl; that was a delicious idea. Her best advice, however, was to always set a loving and nurturing intention when you prepare your foods, whether it’s for yourself or others. I love that!