Fennel and Celery Root Soup


I always want to have it all. I have since I was little.

When dessert carts rolled around at those restaurants that had dessert carts, I would try to grab the mousse cake and the apple pie and the flan.

If a dinner party host offers me cake or pie, I ask for a little of each. “Ice cream on your pie?” Yes, please.

All of it.

There are moments in life when this outlook doesn’t get me very far. Having a little bit of everything means not having all of something else. You know, hedging. I’m the queen of hedging. That’s probably why I love dessert. With dessert, there aren’t really opportunity costs. What do I have to lose? A little stomach space, maybe some dignity. No big deal. In life, there are some.

When I go to the farmers’ market, I have a trick that I use to save money. I purposely don’t go to the ATM the day before. Then I take the $20 or $30 dollars left in my wallet (or, er, borrowed from Alex’s) and put the bills in my back pocket. I grab my tote, I grab my keys. I put on my sunglasses. Then I walk to Grand Army Plaza, where I spend my loot on farm fresh eggs, Ronnybrook low-fat milk, and fruits and vegetables.

I’m not against spending my dough at the market. I just know that if I go with more money, I’ll spend more money. And that money will translate into local vegetables rotting in my fridge.

My $20 trick means I have choices. Giving choices to someone who tends to hedge on Saturday morning, before coffee, is not the best idea. Do I load up on sweet potatoes or delicata squash, I wonder. Splurge on fresh herbs or go for that abundant bunch of broccoli rabe? Do I buy apples or pears?

Or a little bit of everything?

The trade-off. The hedge. I’ll just take one sweet potato, one delicata squash, one apple, one pear.  To make sweet potato-squash-apple-pear salad? Maybe.

This is the kind of thinking that leads you to leave the market in possession of one head of celery root aka celeriac, and no plan.

This is the kind of thinking that, when you finally determine that the celeriac is meant to anchor a puréed soup, you have to run out to the supermarket and buy some other vegetable to supplement the celery root if you want to produce more than about two bites of dinner.

At the supermarket, I picked fennel – one bulb – and then spent the next 40 minutes sautéing white vegetables and then submerging them in water. The last step in this soup is to stick the immersion blender straight into the pot until those cubes are pulverized and turn the whole pot into a creamy purée where the actual vegetables – one of each kind! – are indistinguishable. The soup tastes vegetably and not too rich.

It’d be lovely as a first course at Thanksgiving – if your Thanksgiving is the type to have a first course.

More Celeriac:

Celeriac, Leek, and Sundried Tomato Frittata from Big Girls, Small Kitchen

Celery Root Remoulade from David Lebovitz

Creamy Curried Celery Root Soup from the New York Times


Fennel and Celery Root Soup
Serves 2-4

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small celery root (about 1/2 pound), peeled and chopped
1 fennel, trimmed, a few green parts saved for garnish, the white parts chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, broken up between your fingers
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
pinch of white pepper or a few grinds of fresh black pepper
3 cups water or 2 cups water and 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth

In a medium-sized, heavy stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 4 minutes until both are translucent. Add the celery root fennel, thyme, bay leaf, white pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the water or water and broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, until the celery root and fennel are very tender, 30 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf, and let the soup cool slightly. Then puree the soup with your immersion blender, being careful not to splatter hot liquid onto yourself. You can also use a blender or a food processor – if the latter, puree in batches. Return the soup to the stove to reheat, adding a little water if the soup seems too thick. Taste for salt, adding more as needed.

Garnish with a few of the fennel fronds.

Posted in: Single Serving
  • jaime @ asweetroad.com

    Looks so yummy, creamy, and heartwarming!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Thanks, Jaime!

  • Daniel Choi

    Perfect for Canadian weather!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      And NYC weather…soon… stay warm!

  • Lamb Shanks

    Okay, this looks delicious. I have recently been cautiously exploring fennel. I come to it too late in life for anything else, but I think I like it! And I do that “only bring a 20″ to the market thing, too! It keeps me from spending my week’s food budget on cheese. Which doesn’t sound that bad, but has a lot of unpleasant consequences in the long run. :)

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Yes! It’s such an easy way to trick yourself…

  • Jana

    this one is unbelievably yummy!!

  • Califoreigner

    My $20 trick always tries to overstay his welcome.

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