Fall Celeriac Soup

Two years ago I went on a 5-day silent meditation retreat just before Thanksgiving.  It was the first time I had practiced meditating or taken a vow of silence.  I instantly fell in love with the practice.  Even though the five quiet days felt like an eternity, it was the break from the world that I really needed at that time. 

I promised myself that when I got back home from the retreat, I would continue to practice meditation and find quiet solitude at home.  But, as normal life resumed, my hopes of daily meditation fleeted.  I made a meditation alter, but only sat in front of it once.  I never bought that meditation bench.  And I came up with constant excuses for why I couldn’t “find the time” to meditate at home.

Then the next year rolled around and I told myself I was going on the retreat again.  I was going to strengthen my meditation practice and bring it home with me this time.  No excuses.

However, I couldn’t find that peaceful meditation on that retreat.  It was probably due to the fact that I was in the middle of a very stressful job transition and spent most of the time at the center on my iPhone answering emails.  Even though I knew phones weren’t allowed at the center, I hoped that by getting work done it would alleviate my stress and allow me to focus.  No surprises here, but all it did was cause more stress.

This year I have decided not to go on the retreat. This has been a tough decision and I’ve waffled back and forth, but I finally realized that if I really want to find quiet time in my life I have to do it at home. It’s easy to go away somewhere else and feel relaxed and at peace, but it’s much harder to create that same peace in everyday life.

Of course the first place that I’m turning to in my life for inspiration is cooking.  Being at home in my kitchen is one of the best parts of my life daily and I’ve decided to use it as a space for quiet time and reflection.  My plan is to begin by cleaning and organizing my kitchen to make the space even more inviting and relaxing.  Then I’m going to make soup. 

I’m sure you’ve heard me rave about my love for soup by now because it’s so easy to make. I’ve already been enjoying coconut squash soup and acorn squash apple soup this season, but I have become so infatuated with celeriac that I declided it needed to have a soup of its own.

Do you cook with celeriac in your kitchen?  Celeriac is also called celery root and usually starts popping up at the market in fall.  It looks like a golden brown root ball and somehow reminds me of the mandrakes from Harry Potter. 

Celeriac has a sweet and delicate celery-like flavor that is perfect in soups, salads, and stirfries. The smaller the celeriac, the more flavorful it will be because it tends to taste woodier as it grows bigger. To prepare it, wash and scrub the skin and then cut the outer layer away using a paring knife. It can be eaten raw or cooked and I particularly like it shredded and added to raw salads or roasted with other root vegetables.

This soup has a sweet, delicate flavor with hints of celeriac, leek, and fennel.  I recommend topping it off with fresh lemon zest, red chili pepper flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil.  This soup will not only keep you warm during these chilly fall days, but hopefully it will inspire more peace and quiet time in your life too. 

Fall Celeriac Soup
Serves 4 – 6

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium leeks, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried sage
3 garlic cloves
2 medium celery roots (or 3 small), skinned and chopped

1 fennel bulb, chopped
2 cups (cooked) garbanzo beans
2 bay leaves
6 cups vegetable broth
zest from 1 lemon
red chili pepper flakes
olive oil for drizzling

Add olive oil to large pot over medium heat. Saute the leek in olive oil for several minutes, until fragrant. Add the thyme, sage, and garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add the celeriac, fennel, beans, and bay leaves.  Add enough vegetable broth to cover vegetables with liquid (about 6 cups) and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, turn the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the celeriac and fennel are tender. 

Remove the bay leaves. Next, blend the soup by using an immersion blender or transferring it to a regular blender. Add more broth or water, if needed. (If using a regular blender, be very careful as the steam can sometimes cause the lid to blow off.  I recommend allowing the soup to cool for a few minutes, then blending small batches on medium speed while holding the lid down with a pot holder or towel in hand.) 

Serve hot and top with lemon zest, red chili pepper flakes, and olive oil before serving.

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